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East Allegheny directors say no tax hike for 2014-15 school year

| Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 3:46 a.m.

East Allegheny School District residents should not see an increase in real estate taxes in the 2014-15 school year.

School directors approved a proposed final budget on Monday with the millage rate remaining at 27.54 mills.

One mill generates approximately $471,000.

The board adopted a resolution in January indicating it would not raise taxes for the next fiscal year by more than its Act 1 index of .8547 mills.

School directors said they have no intention of raising taxes.

“We all live here,” board president Gerri McCullough said. “We have a vested interest not to raise the taxes. We have to think about all the residents in North Versailles (Township), Wilmerding, Wall and East McKeesport.”

The budget is not balanced. Official revenues were not available at the meeting.

The meeting agenda states revenues and expenditures total $32,683,382. However, school director Frank Pearsol said revenues are off by a few hundred thousand.

“We're hoping to add some additional monies,” Pearsol said. “We're banking on certain things that aren't definite yet in the budget. We wanted to wait till at least June to see how things work out.”

Those “things” include state funds.

“All the revenues from the state are at a minimum right now,” Pearsol said. “Hopefully the governor will add some money.”

District director of fiscal affairs Toni Valicenti said officials will continue to review the budget until its final adoption.

“We're still working toward making some reductions. You can take away from the preliminary (budget). You just can't add to it,” Valicenti said. “Some things still need checked as far as our revenue side of things. That makes a difference as far as not raising any millage. The expenditures are still going to be modified, and there will be some reductions. There's some things that need looked at yet with transportation, and we have some grants that have been applied for ... that makes a bearing on not raising the mills.”

Valicenti said some transportation modifications may include consolidating routes with First Student, and evaluating other contracted cab service for special runs.

“That's just one area,” Valicenti said. “We still have to look at some things as far as our utilities.”

An energy savings project through Constellation NewEnergy Inc. is finishing up later this month.

The board approved reinstating full-day kindergarten at Green Valley Primary and establishing three positions for it, pending approval of the 2014-15 state education budget. The board approved reinstating the alternate education program at the high school and developing two positions for it for the 2014-15 school year. The district suspended the alternative education program for the current school year, and the kindergarten program is half-day.

Prior to approving the entire agenda, a motion to table reinstating those two programs and making positions for them failed, 3-5.

School directors Frederick Miller, Stephen Volpe and Pearsol voted to table. McCullough, vice president Karen Hensler, treasurer Roxanne Sakoian Eichler, and school directors Jacqueline Gates and Beverly Koch dissented.

School director Keith Dandar resigned from his post last month. Pearsol said the board accepted Dandar's resignation and approved advertising the vacant seat at the May 5 workshop meeting. The board plans to ratify the advertisement and appoint a new member at the June 9 meeting.

Another major financial matter remains unresolved. The district continues to negotiate with East Allegheny Education Association for a new teachers contract. The district's 128 teachers have worked without a contract since the end of the 2011-12 school year. Attorney Michael Palombo represents the district.

“Our focus is the students of the district,” McCullough said about producing the budget during negotiations. “We will not allow any distractions to take away from educating these kids.”

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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