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Penn-Trafford officials suggest not replacing 7 teachers

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The Penn-Trafford School District plans to pare its teaching staff by seven positions for the 2013-14 school year.

As district officials plan for the passage of a preliminary budget next month, administrators are recommending that the district not fill seven of nine teaching spots that are being vacated by retirements, Superintendent Thomas Butler said Monday night.

If the board approves the recommendation, 37 teaching positions will have been eliminated over a six-year period.

Butler said administrators can make the teacher cuts without affecting the educational programs in the district.

“That is a savings of well over $700,000 for next budget year, which goes a very, very long way to helping our budget,” Butler said.

If the proposal to cut seven more teachers passes, the teaching staff will have been reduced by about 15 percent over six years, Penn-Trafford Education Association President Shaun Rinier said.

When the teachers union president questioned the drop in student population over that time, Butler and board President Jay Tray said it was by about the same percentage.

Student enrollment has been steadily declining since 2003-04, Tray said. District officials said they expect about 350 seniors to graduate this spring, but the incoming kindergarten class probably will have between 250 and 275 children.

“There's nothing exciting about development in the area,” Tray said. “We're faced with a long-term problem, despite the quality of our school system,” Tray said.

Officials expect to pass a preliminary budget at the May 30 school board meeting and advertise the spending plan for 30 days.

With that schedule, the board then could vote on a final budget at its June 10 meeting.

In December, the board agreed to limit the maximum potential property-tax increase to 1.65 mills, which is based on a state-approved inflation index. After two years without a tax increase, Penn-Trafford raised taxes for 2012-13 by 1.6 mills.

In March, business manager Brett Lago estimated the district's revenues to be $49 million next year. At that time, he said the expenses were projected to be about $49.9 million.

Last year, one mill of tax revenue generated about $270,000 for the district.

Butler didn't specify any budget estimates this week, but said, “We are well beneath our index.”

“Once again, we've been very frugal,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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