Freeport school board to adopt preliminary budget

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 12:52 a.m.

Freeport Area School District officials say that the 5 percent real estate tax increase included in the district's 2013-14 preliminary budget is just that — preliminary.

“It's a best guess at this point in time without knowing where the Legislature is going (with the state budget), and without incorporating what we have to sit down and do over the next couple of months,” said Business Manager William Reilly.

The state requires districts to pass a preliminary budget by the end of February if the district intends to seek permission to raise taxes beyond the state-set, inflation-based limit. Freeport Area's tax hike limit is 2.3 percent.

The school board is set to approve the $26.4 million preliminary spending plan Wednesday.

Districts are allowed to increasetaxes beyond the limit if they meet certain requirements called exceptions.

The district intends to seek exceptions for rising retirement benefit contributions and special education costs.

The district's contribution to the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) will increase by 25 percent in 2013-14, Reilly said.

And special education funding will remain flat for the sixth straight year, based on Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed 2013-14 budget released Tuesday.

Course considerations

The school board is considering the administration's proposal of adding an “early bird” class period, which would be held daily before the high school's actual start time.

Adding the new period, which will run from 7 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., will be based on student interest, said program director Larry Robb.

“We have identified courses that often have conflicts, either because of students' schedule or for the teachers who are teaching it,” he said.

Some of those courses include psychology, calculus and French 3.

“Our main objective is to find extra options for kids,” Robb said.

Once students sign up for a class they must commit to attend for the entire course. Parents would have to provide transportation.

Robb said the district's teachers' union supports the early morning class. He said he does not anticipate any problems in formalizing an agreement with the union.

The district's administration also is asking the board to consider changes to the Advanced Placement program.

Robb said that based on teachers' suggestions, they'd like to require students who take an AP course to take the AP exam. If students earn a passing score on the exam, they may be able to earn college credits for the high school course.

The district would pay for the exam, which would cost about $6,000 based on student enrollment of 75 in all of the district's AP courses.

The district currently offers AP English, calculus and American history. The administration wants to add an AP biology course.

The school board is set to consider the changes Wednesday.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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