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Plum district officials still looking at $3.2M budget deficit

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 4:08 p.m.

Kevin Dowdell is ready to get down to business on the district's budget deficit.

“We have a $3.2 million deficit, and it's the end of March,” said Dowdell, Plum School Board member and chairman of the finance committee. “We've got to start getting serious here.”

The draft of the 2013-14 spending plan projects expenses at $58.6 million and revenue at $55.4 million, according to district business Manager Eugene Marraccini.

Salaries and wages, fixed costs, account for $29 million or about half of the expenditures in the projected budget, Marraccini said.

The current millage is 22.2. A mill generates about $1.2 million.

About $1 million was trimmed from the initial $4.3 million deficit. Marraccini said the largest cuts included about $130,000 related to hiring nine teachers rather than an initial 11. Eleven teachers have indicated they plan to retire at the end of the school year.

About $100,000 was reduced in the transportation budget for buses, $249,000 was decreased for interest on construction and Allegheny Intermediate Unit special-education services were reduced by $200,000, Marraccini said.

Marraccini said one of the largest expenditure hikes is the district's payment to the Public School Employees' Retirement System from $3.5 million in the current budget to $4.9 million in the 2013-14 spending plan.

Health benefit, special education and technology costs also are expected to rise.

District officials also are planning to spend more money — nearly an additional $350,000 — for cyber and charter school tuition, making the total about $800,000. Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said currently 73 students are enrolled in the programs. Comparatively, 61 students were in programs during the prior school year.

Marraccini also said the district's reserve fund currently contains about $3.3 million.

Board President Andrew Drake challenged members of both the education and facilities committees as well as the administration to suggest cuts to the budget.

“No one wants to cut anything, but we have a $3.3 million gap,” Drake said. “We have to have recommendations.”

Glasspool plans to give a list of potential cuts to board members for review.

Board member Richard Zucco said the board also needs to keep in mind that money is needed for various maintenance and repair projects including the gymnasium floor at Center Elementary School, a sewer line and four roofs.

Zucco suggested the board consider a small bond issue — $2 million to $3 million – for the projects.

“We don't want to run out of money when something needs repaired,” Zucco said.

The board has scheduled an additional finance committee meeting to discuss the budget next month. The meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. April 2 and April 23 in the board room at the high school.

The board typically votes on a budget during its June meeting to submit a balanced spending plan to the state by July 1.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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