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Slippery Rock Area voters face debt decision

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

Voters in the Slippery Rock Area School District will decide on Nov. 6 whether to take on millions of dollars in debt, while Center voters will choose whether they will have fewer supervisors.

Residents throughout the district, including those in northern Butler and southeastern Mercer County, will decide whether it will borrow more than $38 million for renovations to the district's high school, with about 675 students, and Moraine Elementary, which houses about 400 students. The district has a total of about 2,125 students.

“It would be a significant millage increase,” said Paul Cessar, district business manager. Under state law, the district would only be allowed to raise taxes just over 2 mills without voter permission. The debt would mean taxpayers would pay about 11.5 to 12 additional mills.

For someone with an assessed value of $20,000, and a sales value of about $120,000, the new debt would mean he or she would pay about $250 extra each year in property taxes to the school district, Cessar said.

The board had talked about renovations to district buildings, but Cessar said the project was scaled down after several public meetings earlier this year. Members of the school board could not be reached for comment.

In Center, with a population of nearly 8,000 residents, voters will decide whether the board of supervisors will remain at five members, or shrink to three. The board was last a trio in 2001. More than 500 residents signed petitions to place the referendum on the ballot. If it goes through, three supervisors would be elected in 2013, to begin serving in 2014.

Township secretary/treasurer Anthony Amendola said salaries and benefits for five supervisors cost the township about $85,000 of Center's $1.5 million budget.

Supervisors Ed Latuska, Andrew Erie and Philip Wulff get health care benefits, while Kenneth Frenchak and Ronald Fiatt opted out and are on their spouse's plan.

Resident Beverly Schenck, a supervisor from 1998 through 2001, said she's helped spearhead the referendum. She's been in a legal battle with the township over open records, seeking the names of the Unionville Volunteer Fire Department's roster.

“Citizens thought they'd have better representation and diversity (going from three to five supervisors), but that hasn't happened,” Schenck said.

She added that the township used up a multimillion dollar budget surplus and has taken on debt over the last decade.

Frenchak said the township is not in as bad financial shape as opponents of the board have said, with a $275,000 surplus this year.

He added that he believes only the governor, after a Senate hearing, could remove a supervisor mid-term, so referendum results could be challenged in court.

“The voting public has all the information out there to make a decision,” Frenchak said. “Whatever they're going to choose, they're going to choose.

“If the people want it that way, that's fine, but there's going to be things that will happen.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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