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Final budget vote for Penn Hills schools set for today

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Penn Hills school board officials are stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to their 2013-14 budget.

On one side of the table is a proposal to furlough 17 teachers. That proposal met with a tie vote at the last school board meeting. On the other side is what district business director Richard Liberto said was really the only budget-balancing alternative if the furloughs remain off the table: restructuring more debt or as Liberto put it, “kicking the can down the road a little farther.”

“We would have to restructure $4 million of our existing debt service,” he told the district's finance committee at its June 17 meeting.

Liberto's original plan was to restructure about $2.3 million in debt service and push it forward into future payments.

Adding to budget difficulties, he said, was a lack of reform at the state level regarding charter schools and pensions.

“Those (potential reform) numbers were not figured into next year's budget, so it doesn't hurt us from that perspective, but it would've been a little more help,” Liberto said.

Among the planned staff cuts:

• Four administrators

• Five service aides

• Four clerical positions

• Eight teacher aides

• Four technology aides

High-school teacher and Penn Hills resident Justin Calderone asked how the district plans to supplement the technology aides.

“As someone who works in the high school, I can tell you that we had three aides this year, and it sometimes still wasn't enough to get the problems solved,” he said.

Finance committee president Joe Bailey said he'd met with members of the technology department “and been assured that there would not be a further delay.”

Calderone was skeptical.

“I'm not trying to be confrontational, but that's probably not going to happen,” he said.

A vote on the final 2013-14 budget will take place tonight, June 27, at a 7 p.m. meeting at Linton Middle School. Bailey said the teacher furloughs will be back on the agenda.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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