Lebo board hopes fundraising will ease budget woes

Published Mar 19, 2013 at 9:23 am (Updated Mar 19, 2013 at 9:23 am)

The Mt. Lebanon school board voted to move ahead with a proposed $6 million capital campaign at its March 18 meeting, selecting fundraising consultant Pursuant Ketchum as campaign counsel. Pursuant Ketchum conducted the original feasibility study for the campaign in the fall of 2012. The firm will aid in selecting a campaign manager, as well as guiding subsequent fundraising efforts.

The district’s initial outlay for the campaign is estimated at around $184,000.

Critically, however, this will not be a cash expenditure. Jan Klein, director of fiscal services, explained the initial expense will be funded as a loan from the district’s general fund. This will then be repaid with campaign proceeds at a later date. The outlay for the campaign would therefore not impact the district’s operating budget for the 2013-2014 school year.

Board vice-president Lawrence Lebowitz, chair of the board’s revenue generation committee, said, “We’ve talked about creating a culture of giving here in Mt. Lebanon. This is a step toward that. There are risks, but I think the upside is outstanding.”

The next steps will be to hire a campaign manager and to begin putting a volunteer organization into place.

Also during the meeting, the board delved deeper into its budget quandary, with board members advancing a number of ideas for budget cuts.

Most board members rejected the idea of closing an elementary school. They were split on other options, including the possibility of reducing librarians’ hours and reducing the scope of the elementary foreign language programs.

The majority of the board was in favor of at least exploring the elimination of a teacher in-service day, as well as closing a school for a week during the summer months.

Other suggestions receiving less attention included having elementary school teachers assume responsibility for teaching health; examining the impact of increased class sizes at the secondary level; even offering athletes the chance to opt out of gym classes.

Yet there is still disagreement on the overall scope of cuts that should be made.

“Most of these cuts impact programming,” said board member Mary Birks. “I don’t feel comfortable with programming cuts. That means furloughs.” She said she would prefer the budget rely more on a millage increase than cuts to make up the budget shortfall.

Board member Bill Cooper echoed her statements. “Here in Mt. Lebanon our business is education. People don’t move here for big houses on lots of land. They move here for the schools.”

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