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BVA officials say no to WIU budget

| Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The 17 school districts that are represented by Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 must formally approve the organizations' 2014 general operating budget.

Belle Vernon Area will not be one of those.

By a 6-0 vote at their monthly meeting Monday, the BVA school board voted against the budget.

Board members Aaron Bialon, John Nusser, and Kimberly Ringstad-Gray were absent from the meeting.

“I'm not comfortable doing it when they have a fund balance that high,” Director Joe Grata said.

According to Grata, and the WIU website, the Intermediate Unit Board of Directors approved the new spending plan Jan. 28.

The budget called for expenditures and revenues totaling $4,790,290, with a fund balance of $2,927,252.38, or nearly 61 percent of the budget.

“How can they justify having a fund balance that high when all the school districts are struggling for dollars?” Grata asked.

Grata said district superintendents, including BVA Superintendent Dr. John Wilkinson, shared concerns about the elevated fund balance.

Wilkinson said he would inform IU officials about the board's decision.

“I wanted to ask Mr. Bialon about this, but he isn't here,” Grata said.

Bialon is the district's representative on the WIU board.

“(The IU) can proceed how they wish, but they will know that they are doing it without our approval,” Grata said. “They're holding on to a hell of a lot more money than they should be holding on to. My question is, why can't that money go to the 17 school districts? That's about $100,000 that we could get.”

Grata said he's unsure if leaders in the 16 other districts will agree with them.

In other business, Wilkinson announced the district received the largest grant ever bestowed by the Consortium for Public Education's Regional Committee.

He said the $5,000 grant is going to be used for the STEM engineering and design class at the high school and will allow the district to purchase a 3D printer.

The entry, “Project Lead the Way - Support” was submitted by high school teachers Michael Pappas, Lou Rood, Ted Grice, Tom Thompson and Margie Brannon.

The board also approved the 2014-2015 school calendar. The first day for students is Monday, Aug. 25. Graduation and the last day of instruction for students is scheduled for June 3.

Four scheduled make-up days are included in the plan, Feb. 16, Apr. 2, 6, 7.

The board approved a three-year contract for business mananger Eileen M. Navish. Financial terms of the contract were not released.

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