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Not replacing teachers could save Gateway cash

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Gateway School District leaders may eliminate four teaching jobs vacated through retirements to save money for 2013-14.

Board members on Monday discussed the cost-saving measure as an alternative to using $353,000 from the district's emergency fund to balance budget. The board must adopt a new spending plan by June 30.

School Directors Jan Rawson and Dave Magill said the $353,000 should be used to reduce a proposed 2 percent tax increase. Business and homeowners could see the sixth tax increase over the last 11 years, officials said.

“You raised taxes last year, you're raising taxes this year, you'll probably have to raise them again next year … people are just going to say enough's enough,” Magill said.

If officials pull $353,000 from the emergency fund, it would leave about $8 million in the fund, which is 12 percent of the $67.8 million budget. Financial experts recommend an emergency fund balance of between 5 and 15 percent of the total budget.

Board member Oliver “Skip” Drumheller said a tax increase would be a good move to strengthen the district's curriculum.

“This year, the tax rise would put us in a position to be strong over the next several years, so it's an investment” Drumheller said. “We have a plan that's been vetted over the last six months.”

The tax increase was projected to generate about $876,000, as of two weeks ago, based on the overall property value for homes in the district. That value continues to drop as property owners file appeals on their 2012 reassessments, said district Business Director Paul Schott.

The proposed tax hike would represent an annual increase of $39 for a home valued at $107,900, which is the average property assessment in Monroeville as of two weeks ago.

It would represent a $13 annual increase for a home valued at $35,200, which was the average assessment in Pitcairn as of two weeks ago.

Drumheller backed the first of a three–step technology plan that would cost about $950,000 this year. Drumheller said the interest rates are low and the time is right to invest in new technology.

Rawson said business owners scouting new locations will search outside of Monroeville because of the tax increase.

“And the ones that are here are going to have to move out, so where are we doing the community any good?” Rawson said.

Board Vice President Jim Capell said he doubts businesses will move out.

“I don't think that this small increase is going to make that much of a difference,” Capell said.

Magill suggested the three-year technology plan be stretched over a six-year period to ease the burden on taxpayers.

In addition to a proposed 2-percent tax increase, school officials also proposed to eliminate 18 lunch room aides to balance the budget. It would leave one aide per elementary school. Teachers and school officials would rotate in and out of the cafeteria during lunch periods, Personnel Director Bob Reger said.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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