Franklin Regional approves preliminary budget sans tax hike
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 6:27 a.m.
The streak appears to be over.
After 10 consecutive tax increases, Franklin Regional officials approved a preliminary budget Monday with no tax increase. Instead, officials agreed to take the extra $333,000 from its burgeoning reserve fund.
“The budget has impressed me this year,” board member Paul Scheinert said. “Our expenses just aren't increasing at the same rate as previous years.”
The school board approved the preliminary budget Monday by a 6-2 vote. Board members Dennis Pavlik and Jane Tower dissented; board Vice President Joe Seymour was absent. Earlier this month, administrators recommended a preliminary budget with a 1-mill tax rate increase — equivalent to about $35 for the owner of a home assessed at $35,000.
The board will finalize the $49.5 million budget on June 17.
Tower called the move to a zero-mill increase “political” and said her dissent was a “protest vote.” The move to lower a tax increase came the night before a contentious primary election in which three incumbent school board members — Scheinert, Kim Bondi and Dennis Irvine — faced five newcomers for party nominations for four open seats.
“Mine was a protest vote, because of the political environment,” Tower said. “But we can't keep borrowing from our reserves.”
Pavlik protested the move because he wanted the board to look harder for “recurring expenses.” He and Tower both have criticized the prior board for approving a two-year contract extension in 2011 for the teacher's union.
Pavlik criticized the board for eliminating only one of the 17 positions vacated by retirements this year. He sparred with Cook and other members of the board over the issue.
“Seventeen retirements and one capture. That's not cutting recurring expenses.”
Several board members protested Pavlik's accusations and asked him what positions the district could have cut. Officials agreed last month to combine vacant positions in English and foreign language to avoid filling one position. Board members have cited class size and financial stability as reasons why they were unwilling to consider cutting additional positions.
Bondi said administrators have tightened the belt on all building budgets.
“We don't buy Kleenex in the middle school anymore,” Bondi said. “We're at the bare bones for what the school supplies our kids.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or email@example.com.
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