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West Branch holds final informative budget meeting
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
By Tyler Kolesar Staff Writer
ALLPORT - Last night's fourth and final informative budget meeting for the West Branch Area School District saw revenue as the topic of discussion. The goal of the meetings has been to bring awareness to the issues surrounding the district, as well as to receive input as to how the district can get the budgetary gap down to $1 million from its projected $1.5 million or so.
Business Manager Jason McMillen went over what revenue the district would be bringing in. For local taxes, McMillen said for the 2012-13 budget they will get $3,163,331 from real estate taxes, with a total of $4,126,281 when combining real estate with per capita, delinquent, income, and other taxes. A three-year average shows these numbers are steadily declining, as the district obtained more than $4.4 million in 2009-10. Revenue from state subsidies and grants for 2012-13 are estimated at $9,733,616, which is about $160,000 less than last year.
McMillen said federal grants are down this year too, with a budget of $489,390 compared to $654,223 last year and roughly $2 million back in 2010-11.
Total revenue is estimated at $14,349,287 and $15,917,033 is projected for expenses. Resident Ron Mollura, who was a former board member, said drastic changes are needed immediately or else the district will be in dire straights.
Mollura asked if spending continues as is, when would the district run out of money. McMillen said if nothing is done, 2014-15 would be when the budgetary reserve would be completely gone.
Mollura said he wasn't pleased with the board's decision to hire employees recently such as a psychologist and reading aides, stating you can't run a school like they've been doing for the last few years.
"You have to run it like a business," said Mollura. "And if you don't run it like a business, you're going to be out of it (as the state would take over)."
Mollura also was displeased with the turnout for budget meetings. At last night's meeting, only three of the nine board members attended, including President Joseph Kovalcin, Gerald Coble and Mel Smeal.
"That's sickening," Mollura said of the turnout, stating he thinks most of the people on the board were solicited to be on the board by the teacher's organization.
Mollura said in order to make the tough decisions, he thinks that former district teachers like Kovalcin and Gary Miller should not be on the board due to the fact they could possibly sympathize with hirings/furloughs. Mollura said one way the district could save was with teacher salaries. Mollura said a starting salary at the district for a teaching position is around $41,000, which Mollura said is one of the highest starting salaries around.
Mollura said a giant tax increase isn't possible without a voter referendum passing. McMillen said the maximum increase unless the public votes to allow it to go further is a millage increase of 2.4 mills. This would create approximately $80,000 in additional revenue, but would hardly make a significant dent in the grand scheme of things.
Mollura asked what is the district going to do about its financial situation, to which Kovalcin said the "real" budget meetings starting in January are when ideas and tough decisions will be discussed.
"These four months (meetings) were designed for information," said Kovalcin. "Now January starts the real work."
The next budget meeting will be on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. McMillen said further budget meetings would take place on the second Tuesday of each month from here on out.
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