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Charleroi Area avoids property tax hike

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

Charleroi Area Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko said he is pleased with the 2013-2014 spending plan the school board approved Thursday in special session.

By a 6-1 vote, the board approved a plan – which will not require a tax increase – based on $20,486,302 in expenditures.

Director Rosalie Carroll cast the lone dissenting vote. Ken Wiltz, Greg Anders, Jim Short, Patsy Brinker, Elaine Pappasergi and Adele Hopkins voted yes.

Heather Keranko did not attend the meeting. Because of his job, Charles Yakich did not vote on the budget but arrived later in the meeting.

“It's always a work in progress. So you have to be respectful to your community, and you have to make sure you're still moving forward as an educational facility,” Ferko said of the budget.

Ferko wouldn't take full credit for the creation of the spending plan.

“It's a collective effort of everyone in the district,” he said. “From administrators, teachers, students, and the board, it's done with the idea that we do this with the responsibility of educating children.”

Ferko cited a continued lack of state financial support.

“We're over 50 percent in our free and reduced lunch program,” he said. “Our special education numbers continue to grow, and we have so many unfunded mandates now, it's ridiculous.

“But the bottom line is, it's all about kids. When it stops being all about kids, then it's no longer public education. Charleroi Area is all about kids. We'll do whatever we need to do to educate kids to help them be successful.”

Ferko said that by tweaking the education plan and offering new programs, the district is able to move forward using new technology.

“It's all about working together and prioritizing, I'm real pleased with how it turned out,” Ferko said of the plan.

Change of heart

Carroll changed her vote to no after looking over the agenda.

“I wasn't satisfied with some of the line-item expenditures throughout the budget,” Carroll said. “I would have just liked some more information on some of the deficits that were projected. There were some areas here that I just didn't understand.”

In other business, the board approved the first of three readings of a new transportation policy.

“All we're really changing in the policy is one word,” said Wiltz, the board president. “The word ‘immediately' will now be in there.”

Bus drivers and employees of contracted transportation providers must provide “immediate” notification of criminal charges or convictions.

Wiltz, at the board's agenda meeting last week, acknowledged a previous incident that spurred the change, but declined to elaborate because it was a personnel issue.

“Let's say they had a DUI conviction, and they didn't report it until we found out a year later they had one,” Wiltz said. “We're just trying to cover ourselves by adding the word ‘immediately' and throw the onus on them. And if they don't (oblige), then obviously they would be subject to dismissal.”

In an unrelated move, the board hired Sara Hega as a middle school English teacher and Brandy Black as a sixth grade teacher.

Elaina Zitney was hired as the district's program director at an annual salary of $82,500.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jsellew@tribweb.com or 724-684-2667.

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