USC looks at increasing drain of cyber and charter tuitions

Published Feb 12, 2013 at 10:37 am (Updated Feb 12, 2013 at 10:37 am)

Upper St. Clair School District administrators discussed the unpredictable and increasing costs of cyber and charter schools in the district budget with school board members Feb. 11.

While planning for the upcoming budget, Frosina Cordisco, director of business and finance for the district, showed board members a chart outlining the escalating enrollment and costs that the district has been paying for residents to attend cyber and charter schools.

The chart began with the 2007-08 school year, when there were 10 students enrolled in cyber or charter schools at the end of the school year at a cost to the district of $80,139.71.

The cost had risen to $285,528.85 during the 2011-12 school year, with an enrollment at the end of the year of 29 students.

The current tuition rate that the district must pay for each regular student in 2011-12 is $10,111.61. The cost for students requiring special education is nearly double that.

Cordisco said the district never knows how many of these students the district will have to pay for in a given year, making it difficult to budget for the escalating cost.

“This funding system is broken,” said district Superintendent Patrick O’Toole.

Cordisco said that not only must the district pay the tuition to the cyber and charter schools, but they also lose out on state funding for those students.

The district is hoping the board will approve a proposed final budget for 2013-14 at its April 22 meeting, and a final budget at the May 28 meeting.

This is a month ahead of deadlines set by the state for adoption of the proposed and final budgets. The state requires the proposed final budget to be adopted by May 31 and the final budget be adopted by June 30.

“We’ve set ourselves a goal to not raise taxes this year,” O’Toole said.

The district raised taxes for the 2012-13 school year by 1.618 mills.

O’Toole said administrators negotiated with the unions to extend the deadline to announce retirement plans from Feb. 1 to March 1. He said the extension was arranged due to the fact that the state’s retirement plan board recently announced a change in the calculations for retirement payments for employees electing spousal benefits that will reduce monthly payments from between $100-$200. O’Toole said this would require more consideration from employees, and he did not feel they had adequate warning to make the decision by Feb. 1.

He said they already have notification of one administrator who is retiring, as well as seight teachers.

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