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Jeannette School Board members, district administrators set to adopt budget

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Jeannette School Board members and district administrators have considered several options while building the 2013-14 budget and the final version is set to be adopted on Monday night at 8 in the administration building.

The preliminary budget, approved last month, contained no tax increase — a move that required the board and administrators to trim at least $47,500 from the original draft of the budget. Earlier this spring, the board considered a 1-mill tax increase but ultimately decided against an increase of any kind.

Superintendent Matthew Hutcheson told the board in a budget meeting last week that he plans to combine two proposed positions — an administrative assistant and an enrichment position. Combining the two, effectively eliminating a position, will trim a total of $65,565 from the budget in salary and benefits.

Hutcheson said other cuts have been made to planned purchases throughout the budget and some items may be purchased with state or federal dollars rather than the district's general fund accounts.

Because the cuts have added up to more than the required $47,500, the additional funds will be moved to the budgetary reserve fund. As it stands now that amount will be slightly more than $200,000 and is considered a budget contingency fund.

As Hutcheson explained portions of that contingency fund will go toward paying expected but difficult to plan for cyber school costs in the next school year.

In the various versions of the state budget that have been presented, Jeannette could receive an increase in state funding ranging from $90,000 to $125,000 over what the district received last year.

But if major changes take place in the state spending plan after the board passes its budget, the district's budgetary reserve fund may be used to make up a shortfall in state funds.

“The main thing is to maintain the contingency money in case revenues don't come in as expected,” Hutcheson said.

Board president Joseph Yorio said he is interested to investigate the district's special education program and whether it makes more sense to return to using the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit for those services.

“At some point, does it behoove us to get out of special education and go back to the I.U.? We keep hiring more and more here and they have the technology and the knowledge there (at the I.U.) to do it,” he said.

Board member Patricia Caralli said the special education teachers being hired at the district now also bring with them another emphasis, such as science or math, and those teachers can be used to enrich existing courses.

“They can help us in those areas if we need it,” said Caralli.

“We just need to look to see if it's still feasible (to keep it in house),” said Yorio.

Aside from some other items board members asked the administration to look into prior to Monday's budget approval, the board expects to adopt the 2013-14 budget with $17,318,824 in revenues and holding the millage at 82.72.

The preliminary budget remains available to the public at the administration building.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

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