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McKeesport Area School District to adopt budget, slight tax increase expected

| Thursday, May 22, 2014, 2:06 a.m.

Property owners in the McKeesport Area School District may see a slight tax increase as a result of the 2014-15 budget.

School directors plan to adopt a preliminary spending plan at next Wednesday's meeting.

Business manager David Seropian explained at Wednesday's workshop meeting that the budget currently contains a .48-mill tax hike and uses $4.5 million of the $6.6 million fund balance.

The preliminary budget is $62,555,683, which is a $2,415,482 increase from the 2013-14 budget. Revenue is projected to increase by $1,978,310.

The proposed millage is 15.70 mills. It amounts to approximately $30 more in real estate taxes for the average homeowner.

“We'll continue to make changes as they come to fruition, or change numbers as they become clear through the state budget or some other means,” Seropian said. “The final budget will be passed in June ... Hopefully by the final budget we won't have to use as much (of the fund balance).”

Seropian said the biggest expenditure increases are $617,330 to charter schools, $1,205,560 in retirement contributions and $386,039 in debt service payments.

“We're still waiting for (state) monies that we lost three years ago,” Superintendent Rula Skezas said. “We're hoping the funding formulas are going to change so that we can get some of those monies back so we can continue offering the programs we currently have in our district. It's getting more and more difficult each year.”

No programs are being cut in the proposed budget, but some personnel changes have yet to be determined.

“We're asking a lot of people to do more,” board president Patricia Maksin said. “Everyone has been so receptive, but it hurts all of us. It hurts our community in the long run. Our staff members are spread very thin. We're asking everybody to do more with less. That's a hard thing to ask.

“Whenever positions become vacated we've made a concerted effort to not fill those positions. We've lost administration. We've lost teachers. We've lost support staff that we're just not replacing. The work still has to be done ... We've been very diligent about making sure that we haven't hurt kids.”

The final budget must be adopted by June 30.

School directors plan to have the first readings on board policies involving budget planning, fiscal objectives, tax collection and other financial matters at next Wednesday's regular meeting. District officials said those policies have not been updated since 1982.

District officials presented former boys basketball coach Corey Gadson a certificate of recognition. Gadson submitted his resignation last month, ending one of the most successful stints in the near 100-year existence of the program.

Gadson won 175 games, including 17 in the postseason. He won four section titles, had four 20-win seasons and was the Class AAAA runner-up once in his 11 years at McKeesport.

Former players at Wednesday's workshop called Gadson “a no-nonsense coach” as well as a father figure and mentor who taught them about life and basketball.

“I really appreciate it,” Gadson said after he received the certificate. “I was ready for the next phase (of my life), but I'll still be in the building.”

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.