Upper St. Clair School District to publicize prelim budget

Published Jan 28, 2014 at 9:51 am (Updated Jan 28, 2014 at 9:51 am)

Upper St. Clair School Board on Jan. 27 voted 6-0 to advertise its intention to vote Feb. 10 on a proposed preliminary budget that would raise taxes by 0.966 mills for 2014-15.

They voted to make public the budget that was reviewed at the Jan. 13 meeting, which would raise taxes by $1,971,758 and would mean a $193 increase in the tax bill for a home assessed at $200,000.

Board President Louis Mafrice and Vice President Frank Kerber, along with board members Buffy Hasco, Barbara Bolas and Amy Billerbeck, voted in favor of advertising the budget and scheduling a vote for Feb. 10. Board member Angela Petersen voted in favor of it by conference call. Board member Louis Oliverio was no longer on a conference call to the meeting at the time of the budget discussion and vote.

If the board adopts the proposed preliminary budget on Feb. 10, it would then apply to the state for an exception to raises taxes beyond the 2.1 percent inflation rate of 0.450 mills.

Frosina Cordisco, director of business and finance for the district, said Jan. 13 that she is recommending applying for an exception to raise taxes an additional 0.326 mills to cover pension costs and an additional 0.190 mills to cover special education costs.

Cordisco said Jan. 13 that even with raising taxes by a total of 0.966 mills, the current numbers indicate a budget shortfall of $1.7 million.

Superintendent Patrick O’Toole said he was in favor of proceeding with the request to the state in order to maintain the maximum flexibility when it comes to “the real budget” which they will discuss in April, May and June.

“We don’t have a lot of firm numbers yet” for the final budget that will eventually be adopted in May or June, he said.

Cordisco said that she hopes to have several pieces of new information for the board at the Feb. 10 meeting. They include the impact of the governor’s proposed budget, which is expected to be released Feb. 7, more exact figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the amounts of exceptions for which the district can apply, and the number of teachers who are expected to retire at the end of this school year. She said the deadline for notifying the district of intention to retire is Jan. 31.

Resident Robert Walker, of Fife Drive, said he was concerned about the proposed tax increase. He said his taxes already went up 26 percent from 2012 to 2013, and but his cost of living increase in pension income is 1.49 percent for 2014.

He said the school board should not be giving a “blank check” to the school district administration.

In other business Jan. 27, the school board also tabled consideration of awarding a bid to replace the track at the high school, as well as possibly some fencing at the stadium. Board members said they had too many unanswered questions about project to proceed, given that architect David McLean could not be at the meeting due to a death in his family.

McLean told the board Jan. 13 that he would recommend that the district award a $490,000 bid to Northern Athletic Construction Company to replace the track, as well as some athletic event components and the inner fencing that separates the track from the spectator’s area of the stadium.

O’Toole said he would also try to set up a time for board members to meet McLean at the stadium so they could be shown the conditions there before voting on the matter. O’Toole said board members would need to be careful to not violate the state’s Sunshine Law by conducting any deliberations outside of a board meeting, but that he could set up something that was informational.

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