Retirements, tuition payments will help close Lebo budget gap

Published Apr 8, 2014 at 9:35 am (Updated Apr 8, 2014 at 9:35 am)

Mt. Lebanon school district aims to close its $2.4 million budget shortfall with minimal cuts to student programing, according to discussion at the April 7 school board meeting. The proposed budget would involve $240,000 in savings from staff retirements, the use of $750,000 of fund balance, a .55 mill tax increase and about $50,000 in cost reductions. District superintendent Dr. Timothy Steinhauer said the district can raise about $160,000 in recurring revenue by modifying a policy to allow F1 visa students to pay tuition to attend Mt. Lebanon schools.

The students would come from foreign families working for area companies.

“We have a memorandum of expectation with one company, and another has indicated enough interest we feel we will be able to fill 15 spots,” Steinhauer said. “These would be high school students. We would typically not be looking to enroll students younger than that.”

A key topic the board did not discuss on April 7, but will take up at its April 15 meeting, is the fate of the high school rifle program. The rifle range was included as an alternate item in the bid documents for the district’s high school renovation project. Cost estimates for adding the rifle range have varied significantly over time. Other options include paying for the rifle team to practice and compete elsewhere, or to eliminate the program all together.

The board is also set to approve more than $160,000 in high school renovation project change orders at its April 15 meeting. Over half these costs, $91,713, relate to the installation of additional sprinklers in the catwalk area above the auditorium. Project plans had not flagged this as occupied space.

Architect Tom Celli said this was a miss by the design team. “When you have a project of this size and complexity, with materials and controls coming from all over the country, these things are going to happen. We have gotten nothing but great feedback, whether from people in the community or those who have competed in the gym or the swimming pool.”

To date, contractors have billed 72 percent of construction costs, and have used 71 percent of the project’s contingency funds.

Both Celli and project manager Tom Berkebile expressed confidence that the project would finish within the established contingency.

“It’s going to be close,” Berkebile said, “but I still feel confident we’re going to get there.”

He added that he expected the number and dollar amount of change orders to decline as the “high risk” phase of the project is coming to an end. According to Berkebile, the early stages of a construction project, especially that involve a great deal of ground work and excavation, are typically most expensive in terms of unforeseen circumstances.

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