LEWISTOWN - By a 5-3 margin, the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors voted Thursday to approve a preliminary 2013-14 budget that could see property tax increases rise by 5.05 percent to generate another $1,111,024 in added revenue.
The proposed spending plan, according to Chief Financial Officer Sean Daubert, totals $65,895,635. Included in that total is the maximum allowable tax increase of 2.4 percent, or $527,608. Also included would be exceptions filed with the state for the state retirement program ($429,190) and special education ($154,226). If those exceptions are approved by the State Department of Education, the tax rate could rise to the 5.05 percent, Daubert said.
Daubert said the document voted on Thursday is a first step in the budget process and had to be voted on with the tax increase to allow him to apply for approval of the exceptions.
Voting in favor of the preliminary budget were Kirk Rager, Kristen Sharp, Mary Lou Sigler, Annemarie Swineford and Dr. Ruth Armstrong. Voting against the proposal were James Hurlburt, Beth Laughlin and Walter Harpster. Board member Travis Parkes was not in attendance at Thursday's meeting.
Rager said he voted for the preliminary budget to allow administration more flexibility in preparing a final budget, which does not have to be voted on until the end of June.
"I want to see us build a budget from the bottom up," Rager noted. "I'm going to fight like crazy not to increase taxes. I voted for this tonight because we needed flexibility. When we get closer to the time, I might not be supportive."
Daubert reiterated the process is in its early stages.
"Today we don't even know what sort of funding will be coming from the state," he reported. "We don't know if there will be an increase, if it will be flatlined or cut."
During a committee-of-the-whole meeting held Jan. 24, Daubert said once preliminary approval is obtained, the district's administration will begin the process of developing the budget after meetings are conducted with principals and department heads.
"By then we hope to begin the process by knowing what the governor is putting out there," Daubert added. Governor Corbett is expected to outline his plans for Pennsylvania's budget next week.
In a hand-out to board members, Daubert pointed out projected increases in expenditures for next year include $650,000 in wage increases following ratificartion of a new two-year teacher contract, a net increase of $488,969 for the retirement program, $285,000 for the remainder of debt service for the Indian Valley Elementary Center project borrowing, a cut of $133,600 in tuition reimbursement, $425,000 in tuition for charter schools, $154,000 for bus route changes made to improve riding time, and $70,000 for the change in legal service providers.
Moving forward, Daubert said the district will have to have an approved proposed budget in place in May. That document will then be available for public inspection for 30 days until final adoption at the end of June.
In other business Thursday, the board awarded several low bids for the Indian Valley Elementary Center renovation project. In all, 27 bids were submitted for the project that will cost $11.2 million, with just over $3 million generated in energy savings.
The low bids accepted included:
$3,172,950 to JC Orr Inc. for general trades construction.
$810,035 to JM Young & Sons for roofing construction.
$280,438 To Singer Food Services for food service construction.
$513,565 to Klouger Construction for plumbing construction.
$940,900 to Orbit Technologies for electrical construction.
$85,850 to Power Component Systems Inc. for asbestos removal.
Reynolds Energy Services for the guaranteed energy service contract that has an equivalent construction value of $3,407,000. The project also anticipates a little over $3 million in reimbursement from the state through the education department's Plan Con Program which will go toward the total cost.
Those bids were approved by a 6-2 margin with directors Armstrong and Laughlin voting no to each of them.
Superintendent James Estep said the cost of the project is estimated to come in roughly half of what it would cost to build a new school on the site.
"Knowing the history of school districts doing virtually nothing to buildings for 40 or 50 years, at $11.2 million, in my opinion, I think it's a responsible project to the taxpayers," he commented.
Harpster, the board president, echoed Estep's comments by stating, "We're hoping the building lasts another 60 years after we're done with this project. It's good for the taxpayers."
In other construction-related matters, the board voted by a 7-1 margin to award the contract for the boiler replacement project at Mifflin County Middle School to the McClure Company with a base bid of $330,000. It was noted that earlier estimates for that project were $700,000.
In other business Thursday, the board:
Hired Richelle Ehrenzeller for a part-time breakfast position at Mifflin County Middle School effective Jan. 7.
Added David M. Wilson to the cafeteria substitute list.
Deleted Roxann Sheaffer from the cafeteria substitute list.
Approved Jessica Dzupova of Slovakia as a foreign exchange student at Mifflin County High School for the 2013-14 school year.
Approved a recommendation that the retirement date for Linda Vance be adjusted to Jan. 25 due to state requirements regarding two missed days from Hurricane Sandy.
Hired Jane E. Looney as the school nurse at Mifflin County Middle School effective Jan. 23.
Hired Michelle Edmiston as a long-term, temporary second grade substitute teacher at Lewistown Elementary School effective Feb. 1 through the second semester of the 2012-13 school year or less.
Recalled Deanna Russler from furlough status to the position of science teacher at Mifflin County High School effective Feb. 1. This position may be assigned to a different building for the 2013-14 school year as dictated by management to fulfill student/teacher scheduling needs.
Accepted the following retirements effective at the end of the current school year: Charles Patterson, science teacher at Mifflin County High School; Karen Soccio, kindergarten teacher at East Derry Elementary School; Sharon Wilson, Spanish teacher at Mifflin County High School; David McCachren, physics teacher at Mifflin County High School; Robert Schwarz, science teacher at Mifflin County Middle School; James Searfoss, English teacher at Mifflin County Junior High School; Janette Selfrdige, first grade teacher at Indian Valley Elementary School; Jan Criswell, second grade teacher at Indian Valley Elementary School; Ezra Scheffel, technology teacher at Mifflin County Middle and Junior High School; Debra Hayes, second grade teacher at Indian Valley Elementary School; Georgia Olson, health and phys ed teacher at Mifflin County Junior High School; Paula Getz, fifth grade teacher at Lewistown Intermediate School; W. Catherine Lechien, librarian at Mifflin County Middle and Junior High School; Anthony Doug Berich, fifth grade teacher at Lewistown Intermediate School; Karen Gehrett, reading teacher at Mifflin County Middle School; and Margaret Zook, guidance counselor at Mifflin County Middle School.
Approved by a 5-3 margin a request from the Friends of the Mifflin County Library to hold a benefit concert at Mifflin County Middle School on Thursday, April 18, and have the fee of $400 waived.
Approved the following additions to the 2012-13 substitute teacher list: Tyler Fink, early childhood education; Emily Mater, French; Mandy Hall, health and physical education; Jane Hesketh, mid-level English 7-9 and mentally retarded certification; Brooke Hackenberg, all subject areas; and Richard Yingling, all subject areas.
Deleted Linda Dalby from the substitute teacher list.
Accepted the resignation of Donna Ciecierski, paraprofessional at Mifflin County Middle School, effective the end of the current school year due to retirement.
Accepted the resignation of Dana Henry, attendance secretary at Lewistown Elementary School, effective June 11 due to retirement.
Accepted the resignation of Sally Weston, attendance secretary at Lewistown Intermediate School, effective June 14, due to retirement.
Approved Thea Leddy as a classroom volunteer at Indian Valley Elementary Center for the purpose of Kid Writing for the 2012-13 school year.
Hired Crystal James as administrative secretary at the maintenance building effective Jan. 21.
Hired Jennifer Miller as a full-time paraprofessional at Mifflin County High School effective Jan. 25.
Approved the following volunteer coaches for the 2012-13 school year: Kyle Bove, wrestling; Ashley Lewis, swimming; Charles Harman, softball; and Craig Johnson, softball.
Hired the following fall coaches for the 2013-14 school year: Collette Bender, fall cheerleading; Natisha Maclay, head field hockey; George Miskinis, head football; Kevin O'Donnell Jr., golf; Robert S. Lepley, head boys soccer; L. Glenn Kyle, girls tennis; and Jill Zegar, head volleyball.
Approved a request by the Mifflin County High School Marching Band to travel to Annapolis, Md. and Washington, D.C. from April 5-7. The cost, including transportation, tourist attractions and meals, will be paid for by the Mifflin County High School Music Boosters.
Approved the revised alma mater, composed by C. Jerry Stone, former Mifflin County School District band director, and arranged by Arthur Belfiore, current Mifflin County High School band director.