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Mt. Lebanon School District moves $2M from reserve fund to capital budget

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Mt. Lebanon School Board will use $2 million from its reserves to pay for school repairs and for equipment and furniture for the high school.

The district's retirement fund will receive $1 million from reserves.

District staff had proposed moving $3 million from Mt. Lebanon's reserves to its capital projects fund, which pays for construction, large repair projects and purchases such as books, equipment and furniture.

A majority of the board wanted to keep $1 million of that in reserve in case of unforeseen expenses, such as a shortfall in state reimbursements or using up all the contingency funding for changes and fixes during the ongoing $109.65 million high school renovation.

“With all the issues we've had, building by building, we're going to need that contingency,” board member Dan Remely said.

The board on Monday approved about $225,000 in changes to the high school project.

The district had set aside more than $4 million to cover unforseen problems with the high school and has spent $3.62 million, or 85 percent of that, with more than a year left to go.

Board President Elaine Cappucci emphasized that staff don't believe the project will overrun the contingency budget.

Moving the money into the capital budget makes it available for renovation, construction or equipment purchases, including several add-ons to the high school or expenses that were left out of the original project.

Examples are a $52,000 contract approved on Monday to design and build a large trophy case; $265,000 for a new sound system in the auditorium; and $82,000 worth of cafeteria furniture.

Finance Director Jan Klein said that once money is put into the capital budget, it can not be transferred back out or used for purposes such as operating expenses, so the board opted to limit the transfer.

“If we need more, we can add more, but we can't take it back,” Remely said.

About $2 million in capital projects are listed for funding this school year, including repair at Washington Elementary, Howe Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and Hoover Elementary. The district would replace cellular antennae and repeaters to improve reception inside school buildings.

The board transferred $1 million to a fund covering health benefits for retirees.

District policy calls for keeping enough money in reserve to cover about 6 percent of operating expenses, and allows anything above that 6 percent to be transferred to other uses.

When an arbitrator sided with the teachers' union over pay issues for long-term substitutes, the district added about $5 million to its reserves while awaiting clarification on what the decision would cost. That cost came back lower than expected in May.

About $750,000 of the district's fund balance was used with a 0.54-mill tax increase to balance the 2014-15 budget.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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