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Plum School District works to cut nearly $1 million deficit

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 10:26 a.m.

The Plum School Board wants to hear more from the district's teacher's union on its plan to help eliminate a shortfall in the proposed 2013-14 budget.

The most recent draft of the spending plan contains a nearly $1 million deficit, district business Manager Eugene Marraccini told board members during a finance committee meeting last week.

Projected revenue is about $56 million.

“They (the Plum Borough Education Association) gave us an initial proposal,” board President Andrew Drake said late last week.

“We want to have a future meeting with them.”

Drake said a meeting would be closed to the public because it deals with contractual issues.

Plum Borough Education Association President Martha Freese, who attended last week's meeting, said she is open to talks with the board.

The deficit as of last month was $2.8 million.

Marraccini said nearly $2 million was slashed from the deficit through various means including the ratification of a contract with the district's transportation employees.

The three-year pact calls for a $4.23-cent an hour wage cut in the 2013-14 school year.

Other steps taken to cut the deficit and balance the budget include:

• Eliminating an alternative learning program at the Boyce Campus of Allegheny County Community College, at a savings of about $77,000.

• Reducing the district's payment to the Public School Employees' Retirement System by $710,000, Marraccini said.

The district had planned to budget $4.9 million for the payment, he said in March.

• Removing major capital expenses from the general fund budget and paying some of those items with bond issues.

• Removing some planned software and computer purchases.

• Taking $500,000 from the reserve fund and $518,750 from a capital improvement fund to eliminate a portion of the deficit.

Without the measures, Marraccini said, the deficit would be about $2 million.

The reserve fund is expected to contain $2 million after expenses for the current school year are tallied.

Another area of savings is in the Boyce Campus Middle College High School program, also known as BCMC, at the Community College of Allegheny County in Monroeville.

The current draft of the budget eliminates the program for the district's 17 students for the 2013-14 school year at a savings of $77,323.

BCMC supporters urged the board to keep the alternative program in place.

High school students from Plum, Gateway and Penn Hills attend the program that is intended for students who have had difficulties including excessive absences and academic problems in the traditional high school setting.

“These kids need this school to succeed,” said Rich Nowalk whose son, Brian, attends the program.

Others last week spoke in support of the Family Consumer Science program at the high school.

The junior high program was eliminated last year.

Salaries and benefits for the three teachers in the program total $334,000, according to district officials.

“Not everyone goes to college,” said Dana Tomko of Plum.

“People use these classes to learn life lessons.”

The next finance committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 22 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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