USC announces 16 retirements at the end of the school year

Published Mar 12, 2013 at 9:07 am (Updated Mar 12, 2013 at 9:07 am)

Upper St. Clair School District Superintendent Patrick O’Toole said that the district may save more than $750,000 through the retirement this year of 15 teachers and one principal, but it will make a significant impact on the culture of the district due to the loss of many long term employees.

“There are a significant number of retirements of very significant people,” he told the school board March 11, when the school board got its first public look at projected numbers for the 2013-14 budget. Boyce Middle School Principal Karen Brown will retire at the end of this school year.

O’Toole said last month that administrators negotiated with the unions to extend the deadline to announce retirement plans from Feb. 1 to March 1. The extension was arranged because 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 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.

The 16 pending retirements would save the district an average of $50,000 each.

O’Toole said at this point in the budget process, they are planning to replace all 16 employees, but he said they will be looking at reconfiguring teaching assignments in order to potentially not replace all the positions and realize more savings.

A chart was shown indicating three retirements at the high school, two at Fort Couch Middle School, three at Boyce Middle School, four at Eisenhower Elementary, one at Baker Elementary and two at Streams Elementary.

Frosina Cordisco, director of business and finance, showed the school board a proposed 2013-14 budget totalling $66,313,986. This budget shows a shortfall of $1,991,674.

Cordisco said that the board planned for a two-year cycle last year by raising taxes by 1.618 mills after receiving exceptions from the state to raise taxes higher than the inflation rate for 2012-13. This means that a projected surplus of $1,773,075 in the 2012-13 budget can be used to offset the deficit for the next budget year – which leaves a combined shortfall of $218,599 for 2013-14 the budget.

O’Toole said savings from the refinancing of up to $12 million in 2007 bonds that was approved by the board Feb. 25 could be used for some capital expenses anticipated in the 2013-14 budget, thus addressing the shortfall. The district is expected to save more than $900,000 through the refinancing, which is expected to take place in April.

“We’re trying to get that $218,599 erased,” he said. “There are a lot of things impacting our budget. We’re trying to put the airplane together while it is flying.”

“The federal sequestration thing is anybody’s guess,” O’Toole continued. “I hear better news from Harrisburg than I do from Washington.”

Cordisco is currently planning on nearly half a million dollars less in federal funding in the 2013-14 budget due to the sequestration law that has taken effect.

She said the district may see a $100,000 reduction in a federal repayment of bond interest as soon as next month, unless there is action taken to reverse the current law automatically reducing federal spending.

Cordisco said 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.

In other business March 11, the board heard a report from David McLean, of Graves and McLean Architects, regarding the status of the district’s application for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver designation for the district’s two middle school renovation projects. He said certification for Boyce Middle School could come as early as August 2013 – the design submission process is complete and the construction submission is underway. Certification for Fort Couch Middle School could come as early as October 2013. McLean said the design submission process is “in process” and the construction submission process is pending.

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