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New Kensington-Arnold board checks spending

| Thursday, March 14, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

New Kensington-Arnold School Board members and district officials on Wednesday continued to analyze this year's expenses as part of their planning for next year's budget.

Business Manager Jeff McVey said it appears some 2012-13 expenses, including costs for services provided by the Westmoreland and Allegheny intermediate units, will come in under budget.

But costs for students to attend other educational facilities (court placements, schools for certain disabilities, cyber and charter schools) are exceeding estimates, as are maintenance costs due to the cold winter.

McVey said he expects the current year's total expenses will come in under budget by a few hundred thousand dollars, which could allow him to adjust downward some estimates for 2013-14.

The board last month approved a preliminary budget of $33.7 million for next school year. The final budget must be passed in June.

McVey said the district lost about $32,000 this year in federal Title I services and he is projecting a loss of about $60,000 next year in federal funding due to the federal budget sequestration.

“That's going to be significant to try to overcome,” he said.

McVey said many figures impacting the budget still are up in the air.

The district has requested an exception from the state department of education for the ability to raise property taxes above the state cap of 2.5 percent. Due to rising retirement costs, the district requested permission to raise taxes by up to 4.5 mills or about 6 percent.

McVey said he expects to learn within the next month whether the exception will be granted. If it isn't, the board will have to quickly determine if it can live with the smaller tax increase or seek a voter referendum to raise them higher.

Another question is how much state aid the district will receive next year. McVey said preliminary projects are that the basic education subsidy will increase by only about $150,000.

Board member Pat Petit, who oversees finances, said it will need to discuss whether the district can afford to have full-day kindergarten next school year. The district currently is budgeting for full-day.

Superintendent John Pallone said the board will need to decide how to restructure the central office. With the retirement earlier this year of human resources coordinator Renee King, Pallone said he has several options for distributing her duties for the board to consider.

King also coordinated federal grant money, homeschool visitations and other “odd functions,” Pallone said.

Board member Regina Namey said she would like the board to consider creating an administrative position as an assistant to the superintendent as part of the restructuring. Namey said she especially wants somebody to be charged with overseeing the federally- funded programs as soon as possible.

McVey said he will be meeting individually with the building principals to review their budgets, but he warned there likely will be little to cut because they already have been operating on minimal budgets for several years.

“They do shop well,” Pallone said. “They look for the least expensive options.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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