Salisbury School Board Approves 3.4 Percent Tax Hike, Staff Cuts Possible

School board can continue to make changes to proposed 2011-12 budget until it votes on a final budget on June 15.

The Salisbury Township School Board passed a nearly $30 million proposed final budget Wednesday that includes a 3.4 percent tax increase and leaves open the possibility for further staff cuts.

The board will continue to work on the budget until it votes on the final version June 15, said Board President Russell Giordano.

Prior to the meeting, the board met in executive session to discuss possible personnel cuts. While the board would not disclose information about specific positions that could be eliminated in the regular meeting that followed, Superintendent Robert Gross said, "I can tell you that there are changes at multiple levels in the district in personnel. Some will be shifted, some will be changed. Until the board really hits that budget button, it would be inappropriate to go to the specifics."

Gross said they are looking at "numerous changes" throughout the district "due to, in large part, declining enrollment." 

"We are projected next year to be about 40 students less than this year. And our projections are showing 1,570 [students] based upon current kindergarten enrollment. So part of what we did was take a look at our continuum of services  throughout all programs," Gross said.

The administration and board have been evaluating class sizes in the district.

The budget passed on Wednesday night is the same one discussed at the and does not reflect any new changes to personnel, besides what was previously announced, Stafford said.

Complicating the budget process is the fact that the state legislature is still working on the governor's proposed budget, which will affect how much money school districts receive.

"Depending upon how that plays out, we may or may not end up with some state funding that is not part of this budget. So it's a bit of a moving target right up to the end," Giordano said.

Julie Bolton, treasurer of the district's chapter of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education, asked the board if the program for students in the middle- and elementary schools would be maintained.  Bolton said she was concerned, especially since  Kelly Wetherhold, a Salisbury Middle School teacher in the gifted program, was being reassigned to the high school.  

Moments earlier, Wetherhold had just been recognized by the board for receiving the state association's Outstanding Educator Award for 2011.

 "We are in a very fortunate position, contrary to many school districts contiguous to us even, where from this very challenging budget we are seeing no curtailment of programming at any level," Gross said.

Moreover, he added, the district is considering augmenting some programs, such as adding and possibly a seminar for gifted students at the high school.

But the administration will proposed "a more efficient use of our materials and personnel," he said.

The proposed final budget includes expenditures of $29,912,655, and $28,310,946 in revenues, leaving a $1.6 million shortfall.  A 3.4 percent real estate tax increase would bring the millage to 46.9901, which means the owner of a home assessed an average $71,000 would pay $109.70. 

"This budget process has proven to be exceptionally difficult this year. This is the lowest Act I index in history," said Business Administrator Christine Stafford. 

She cited the difficulties were exacerbated by the loss of local revenues, the economic downturn and Gov. Corbett's budget, introduced 30 days late.

"It literally changes, I want to say on a daily basis, but it changed three times today," she said.  "We may not know June 15 how our state funding is going to play out in this budget. "

The district locked in a fuel contract this week for 25,000 gallons at $3.3675 per gallons, almost 64 cents a gallon higher than last year, Stafford said. In addition, 10,000 gallons more will be locked in at a fluctuating rate, she said.



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