Calmer Ringgold school board OKs budget
By Rick Bruni Jr.
Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013, 1:31 a.m.
The Ringgold School Board squabbled repeatedly – albeit in a more subdued tone – before passing a 2013-2014 budget Wednesday.
At the board's June 12 informational meeting, board member Larry Mauro leaped from his seat and confronted business manager Randy Skrinjorich.
With Monongahela police Officer Steve Kenyon in attendance – at the request of administrators – the board approved budgetary matters despite protests and no votes from board members Chuck Smith and Mauro.
The $39,649,754 budget passed, 7-2, with Smith and Mauro voting in opposition.
Board president Mariann Bulko voted to approve the budget along with directors William Stein, Chris Carroll, Carol Flament, Gene Kennedy, Maureen Ott and Robert Smith.
The budget did not require a property tax increase.
Mauro calmly maintained his objection from weeks ago that the final budget differed too significantly from the preliminary budget submitted for public view May 15.
“I'm happy it's a zero-mill (increase), but I think it's unrealistic. There are a lot of one-time monies that we're going to have to come up with next year,” Mauro said. “I'm not at all satisfied with the board's lack of involvement in preparation of the budget.”
A more vociferous Smith grilled Skrinjorich and Bulko on the budget numbers, claiming the district was passing a spending plan that differs greatly from what he called a “pre-election” budget reviewed in committee.
The tentative budget showed a balance of $39,477,474.
The final budget includes a $137,550 increase in salary for regular teachers from the preliminary budget and a nearly $240,000 increase in business education expenditures that Skrinjorich said resulted from reclassification of computer teachers to business teachers.
Superintendent Dr. Karen Polkabla maintained the key difference was the administration had, by May 15, not been told the exact amount of federal Title I money the district would receive.
She said that forced the administration to make an initial “guesstimate.”
The preliminary budget listed $476,565 in Title I revenue, which is aimed at improving academic achievement of “disadvantaged” students. The final budget lists $634,446 in Title I revenue.
“You explain this money, where it came from,” Smith told Bulko when she began interjecting to call for a vote.
“I'm not explaining it,” Bulko said. “I'm going to call roll.”
“You can't explain it, because you don't know,” Smith retorted, his voice rising as he continued. “When it comes down to it, you guys want to put $640,000 more of expenses through.
“In the last year and a half, (Skrinjorich) told us we need $500,000 to $700,000 more every year to handle all these problems and, all of a sudden, we find $640,000 to cover expenses without raising revenues? … You're rolling the dice and you're banking on reassessments to pay for this. … What if you're wrong?”
In other action, in a 6-3 vote, the board agreed to pay West Penn Appraisers Inc. $4,000 to appraise the former Donora and Monongahela elementary centers. Mauro and the Smiths voted no.
The goal is to place the properties up for sale.
The buildings were initially appraised at $100,000 apiece.
By the same 6-3 vote, the board approved budget transfers in the general fund for the remaining three days of the 2012-2013 school year.
Chuck Smith claimed the board was “sequestering the public.”
After the meeting, Chuck Smith showed documents listing the district's bank account balances totalling $21,958,042 as of May 31. Another document showed the balance at $25,090,356 as of Dec. 31, 2012.
Bulko replied there was nothing to those numbers while Smith traded barbs with Ott and Carroll.
“Oh, you've never spent money, huh?” Carroll told Smith.
“We'll see what you have left in a year,” Smith replied.
“You lost the election, Charlie,” Bulko said. “You campaigned on gloom and doom and the district going under, and you can't stand that it's not.”
In other business, the board made a number of personnel moves, including hiring Jason Minniti as high school principal by unanimous vote. Minniti will take over for former Principal Dwayne Homa.
The board accepted Homa's resignation May 15, less than three weeks after the district suspended him for unspecified reasons. Polkabla and board members had said they were not legally permitted to disclose why Homa was suspended.
Minniti, who had been serving as one of two assistant high school principals, will earn $91,000 annually. Jason Marvin will remain assistant principal at the high school, while the board will advertise for Minniti's replacement, Polkabla said.
In addition, Ross Ference – previously Ringgold Elementary South Principal for students in grades kindergarten though 2 – will take over as principal at Ringgold Elementary North for grades kindergarten through five.
He will replace Dr. Michael Tominello.
Wendy Yonkers, who had overseen grades 3 through 5, will remain at Ringgold Elementary South, as its lone principal for kindergarten through 5.
The board will advertise for an assistant principal who will travel between the two elementary schools, Polkabla said.
The board approved two teaching hires, including Ringgold alumnus Amy Lucas. Lucas was hired as a guidance counselor at the middle school with an annual salary of $45,338. Marrissa Rega of Greensburg was hired as a high school Spanish teacher at a salary of $34,000.
The board approved the purchase of five buses: four Bluebird buses totaling $336,900 and one mini-bus from Myers equipment costing $54,136.
Bruni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.
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