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Preliminary Plum school budget cuts two programs

| Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 10:43 a.m.

The Plum School Board has balanced the 2012-13 budget, in part by slashing two programs.

The elimination of the family and consumer science program at Oblock Junior High and the driver's education program at the high school is expected to save about $200,000.

Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said cutting the two programs results in the elimination of three teaching positions.

Glasspool said he doesn't know if the move will result in three teacher layoffs.

The board has scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Plum High School cafeteria to vote on the preliminary budget.

A vote on the final budget is expected during the 7 p.m. meeting June 26.

Board members decided on the cuts at the end of a three-hour finance committee meeting last week, which, at times became contentious with comments between board members and attendees, many of whom were Plum teachers who urged the board to raise taxes rather than eliminate programs.

Board President Andrew Drake doesn't favor a tax increase and said a hike is not an option given the district's fund balance that was estimated at $5.7 million as of June 30, 2011.

Also, Glasspool said the estimated surplus from the 2011-12 budget is $680,000.

"You have too much money in savings to not save programs," said Dennis Swogger, a borough resident who teaches art at Plum High School.

The cuts were part of a package to eliminate a $1.4 million projected deficit in the 2012-13 spending plan. Business Manager Eugene Marraccini said anticipated revenue is just less than $55.9 million, and projected revenue is about $54.4 million.

In addition to cutting the two programs, the board approved reductions to the junior high library program and the facilities department. Also, an audit of retirees benefits is expected to net the district $160,000.

The board also backed a $25-per-student fee for club and extra-curricular activities and a $50-per-student, after-school activity fee. The two fees are expected to generate $61,000.

The board also plans to use $1.1 million from the reserve fund as well as $200,000 in anticipated revenue from bond refinancing.

"I am very disappointed that the board is making cuts to any educational programs," said Mary Beth London-Gibbon, president of the Plum Borough Education Association, or PBEA, following the meeting. "Dr. Glasspool mentioned cuts that were non-educational cuts, and the board turned those down."

The board poured over Glasspool's list of cuts that included non-mandated programs such as kindergarten, junior high and high school art, elementary strings and band, business education at the high school, technology education at the junior high and high school and TV production. Most board members balked at eliminating the programs.

Prior to the board's action on the items, several audience members implored them to preserve programs.

"I learned a lot of valuable tools (in foods class) that I may not have learned anywhere else," said Kyle Zaspel, 23, a Plum graduate.

Zaspel's mother, Gwen, 55, of Plum said given the rising obesity rate, school districts need to teach children healthy eating habits.

"Parents and doctors can't do it alone," Gwen Zaspel said. "Schools cannot just be academics."

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