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Kiski Area School District programs feel effect of federal spending cuts

| Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 7:32 a.m.

Automatic funding cuts caused by the failure to reach a federal budget compromise are affecting Kiski Area School District.

District Business Manager Peggy Gillespie said Monday there are three areas where the district will be receiving less money than it should because of the cuts, also referred to as the federal sequestration. Those areas are Title I, special education funding through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and school construction through the Build America Bonds program. The program provides state and local governments with a new, direct federal payment subsidy for a portion of their borrowing costs on taxable bonds.

Overall, Gillespie said it appears the district will receive $104,000 less than anticipated through the three programs.

That is not good news for the district, which is looking at $52 million in expenditures, at least initially, while projecting $49 million in revenues.Gillespie said that some figures on the preliminary budget will change by the time she presents it at next week's board meeting.

“I fully expect to bring you a budget that is less than $52 million,” Gillespie told the district's finance committee.

“Looking into your crystal ball, how much less?” board member Robert Keibler asked.

“Not $3 million,” Gillespie replied.

The shortfall will be covered by the district's fund balance and will not result in a tax increase, she said.

“Our reserves are healthy,” Gillespie said. “We have over 8 percent in our unreserved fund.”

“We cannot raise taxes because we are over 8 percent in our fund balance,” committee chairman David Anderson said.

“It (the surplus) will deplete, but we are not at critical mass yet,” Superintendent John Meighan said.

Gillespie said the biggest increase in the budget is for retirement costs at about $900,000. Salaries will increase by $185,000 while health care costs will rise by only $50,000. Also, curriculum and textbooks expenditures will rise by $391,000 and technology equipment costs will add $129,000.

She said the technology equipment is badly needed as the district had cut allocations for that in the past few years.

There will be some savings in a reduction in staff, but none of it will be realized through furloughs, Gillespie said. She said there are 11 teachers and one clerical staff person retiring. The clerical position and four of the teaching positions will not be filled.On the positive side of the ledger sheet, Gillespie said district revenues have risen by $891,000. That includes a Forbes Road Vo-Tech refund of $191,000, a special education refund of $223,000 from the Intermediate Unit and $101,000 from the federal E-Rate program that subsidizes Internet access for schools. There is also an additional $248,000 in the state basic education subsidy, bringing the district's total to $15.2 million.

The remaining additional revenue is from increased wage tax collections and additional real estate and real estate transfer taxes through growth in the local real estate market, Gillespie said.

Board votes to close Washington Elementary

The board unanimously voted to follow through on the district's plan to close Washington Elementary School.

Fifth- and sixth-graders from Washington and also Bell-Avon Elementary, which also is targeted for closing under the plan, will attend the expanded and renovated North Washington Elementary School.

Children in the lower grades will ultimately attend school at Vandergrift Elementary which is scheduled for renovation as well.

There were no objections from only a handful of residents who attended the public hearing Monday. Most of the board members who spoke said they believed that closing the school is the right decision.

A hearing on the closing of Bell-Avon will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the administrative center at 250 Hyde Park Road, Allegheny Township.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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