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District leaders dubious of governor’s budget proposal

Officials concerned MC’s share will be small

LEWISTOWN – Mifflin County school leaders are not optimistic about how Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget will affect rural school districts.

Mifflin County School District Chief Financial Officer Melinda Kenepp explained to the district’s board of directors Thursday during its Committee-of-the Whole meeting, that while the governor’s proposal shows a $1.3 billion increase to schools across the state, Mifflin County’s portion would be relatively low.

Superintendent James Estep explained that if the state sticks to its current proposed formula, any school that is experiencing declining enrollment — like Mifflin County and other rural school districts —“is going to be seriously harmed in terms of what kind of basic and special ed funding they can get,” he said. “So, unfortunately, that means for a lot of rural schools like ours…we are going to see our state funding shrink even further, which would create some difficult decisions for us down the line.”

“The budget for the state has remained in a way that there are always winners and losers and now if (they) make the change, there’s just going to be a new set of winners and losers,” he said.

Kenepp described disappointment in the proposed budget. “It seems unbelievable that the governor is so favorable to public education. It seems it would be just a tremendous thing for us. It turns out, it just isn’t.”

Estep continued, “It is going to favor public education overall, but unfortunately, we’re not going to be riding those coat tails,” if the proposed budget is approved as is.

In other news, Chief Academic Officer Kevin O’Donnell recognized Rebecca Conner and her STEM interns for dedicating class time to a project that produced gifts for more than 200 nursing home residents and staff.

“I thought is was pretty special for the students and Mrs. Conner to take some time to do that,” he said.

In unrelated news, Chief Operations Officer Vance Varner explained that the district is continuing to have difficulty finding enough bus drivers, adding that there are currently a few that are in quarantine.

He said a letter was sent to parents earlier this week explaining that if students could not obtain transportation to school, it would be considered an excused absence.

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