Budget woes continue for USC

Published Mar 11, 2014 at 8:47 am (Updated Mar 11, 2014 at 8:47 am)

An Upper St. Clair School Board member told district administration at the board’s March 10 meeting that she was very concerned that a budget proposal for technology enhancements for the district is not yet included in the budget details that the administration has been presenting to the board.

On Feb. 10, the board adopted a preliminary budget that would raise taxes by 0.783 mills for 2014-15. The district is seeking 0.333 mills worth of exceptions from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to raise taxes higher than the inflation rate of 2.1 percent, or 0.45 mills.

The proposed budget still includes a shortfall of about $750,000, even with raising taxes to the maximum the PDE might permit.

The district and administration will spend the next few months discussing details of what a final budget might look like by the time it is adopted in May or June.

Board member Angela Petersen expressed concern March 10 that administration has not so far included a proposal for technology expenditures in the initial budget presentations.

“I fear we are looking at a low number, not a real number,” she said of the $750,000 budget deficit.

“Technology came out of our goals session on top,” Petersen said. “Technology is critical.”

Superintendent Patrick O’Toole said he hoped to have proposed technology numbers for the board at its March 24 meeting.

Board member Louis Oliverio asked if the money the board voted to spend on a fence at the high school stadium in February could have been used for technology.

“We just had a $65,000 capital expenditure for a fence that I disagreed with,” he said. “Could we have used that for technology?”

Frosina Cordisco, director of business and finance for the district, said they could only have used capital funds for things like wiring that would become part of a building.

Cordisco also told the board March 10 that she projected the district would save $250,000 in 2014-15 because of the five teacher retirements that have been tendered. The preliminary budget assumes all five teachers will be replaced with new teachers.

She told the board that the five retirements include two from the high school, one from Fort Couch Middle School, one from Baker Elementary School and one from Streams Elementary School.

Board to vote on calendar

Upper St. Clair School Board on March 24 is expected to adopt a final version of the 2014-2015 school calendar.

The draft schedule has school starting on Aug. 25. The last day of school is listed as June 10, pending snow make-up days.

March 30 through April 3 is listed as Spring Recess.

Fall open house dates at the schools are: Sept. 18 at Boyce Middle School, Sept. 11 at the elementary schools, Sept. 17 at the high school and Oct. 2 at Fort Couch Middle School. Students will be dismissed early on days that their school has an open house.

There are two scheduled half days on the calendar, on Oct. 10 and March 6. The students would be dismissed early on those days and the remainder of the day would be used for professional development for the teaching staff.

Eleven teacher in service days are listed between Aug. 20 and June 12, during which there is no school for students. They are: Aug. 20-22, Oct. 27-28, Nov. 4, Jan. 19, Feb. 13, April 6, June 11 and June 12.

Other business

The district has been awarded a $23,570 grant from the PDE Office for Safe Schools for the 2013-14 school year. The grant will be used for crisis emergency planning and emergency management training. This is the second grant that the district has received from that office this year. The district earlier received a $40,000 grant for a school police officer.

The district will receive 20 Kindle Fire XDs with shock covers and a charging cart from the Pittsburgh Penguin Foundation’s “Tablets in Education” program. The tablets are planned to be used in one of the district’s elementary schools, according to Judy Bulazo, director of curriculum and professional development for the district.

The superintendent’s spring Open Mike event will be held 10 a.m. March 25 in Boyce Theatre. O’Toole said this event has been held in the evening in recent years, but the PTA asked him to hold one during the day. Residents are welcome to attend and put questions to the superintendent.

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