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Penn Hills school board approves preliminary 2014-15 budget

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 10:48 a.m.

The Penn Hills School District Board of School Directors on Wednesday night unanimously approved a $78.2 million preliminary budget that raises the tax rate by 0.68 mills, to 24.154 mills.

Board member Joseph Bailey was not present.

Last year, the district technically lowered millage to 23.472, due to anti-windfall provisions put in place following Allegheny County property reassessments.

The budget is about $4 million lower than an $82 million projection put forth at the district's April finance committee meeting. Business Director Rick Liberto said the district is projecting more revenue than anticipated with regard to the earned income tax and other taxes, and a slight increase in state funding.

Liberto added that 22 teachers are taking advantage of the early retirement package offered by the district, saving the district upward of $2 million.

The board's agenda also included:

• A unanimous vote approving eight teacher furloughs.

• A unanimous vote to create a new position, an assistant superintendent of schools.

• Unanimous approval of the 2014-15 food-service budget, which projects a guaranteed profit of just more than $18,000.

• A 6-1 vote to table approval of retaining the services of a new tax collector, Irwin-based Keystone Collections Group. Board member Heather Hoolahan made the motion to table after it was made clear that no contract was available for the board to review.

Parent Robert Marra asked why the only document available was a rate sheet.

“I would never approve something like this,” Marra said. “This doesn't even say where we're supposed to pay our taxes. It's fly-by-night again.”

“Why are we doing it this way?” Hoolahan asked. “Why do we not have a contract in hand? If Mr. Marra hadn't brought this to our attention, we'd have voted on it, and that's a little worrisome.”

• The approval and appointment of assistant principals at the new Penn Hills Elementary School, which will officially open its doors on Aug. 9, according to Hoolahan. Current elementary principals Tom Iaquinta (Washington Elementary) and Sandra Barker (Penn Hebron Elementary), and Linton associate principal Darcie Gatti will serve in the positions under principal Kristin Brown (Forbes Elementary).

Board member Pauline Calabrese abstained from all votes other than the preliminary 2014-15 budget. Calabrese said she was involved in an accident and did not have an opportunity to properly review 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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