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Southmoreland school board continues budget talks

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Southmoreland School District budget for the 2013-14 school year was a topic for discussion once again at the April 11 meeting of the board.

With that in mind, a special meeting scheduled April 30 originally tabbed for discussion will now be a voting meeting.

A few different options of a potential spending plan will be available for the board to vote on at that meeting. This will give the administration a framework from which to develop a budget.

A preliminary budget will not be approved at that time. That is expected to take place when the board meets May 23, the date to which the scheduled May 9 meeting has been changed. Other changes approved for meetings include having May 2 as a voting meeting and moving the June 13 meeting to June 27.

At a special meeting March 21, Bill McNamee — the district's interim business manager at the time — said a deficit that originally stood at $1.6 million had been trimmed to around $600,000. The budget as it stood at that time did not include a tax increase.

School Director Catherine Fike asked if that would be the case once a final budget is ready for approval.

“People are very concerned,” she said. “They want to know what our plans are. They want to know what they need to do.”

“In its current iteration the budget does not reflect a tax increase,” Molnar responded. “At (the April 30 meeting), there will be a number of options the administration will have prepared for you by then. It will be up to this board to decide whether or not they are planning to implement a tax increase.”

Eventually, Fike made a motion that the budget not contain a tax increase. The motion was seconded by School Director Ken Alt.

“I'd like to see us say we're not going to do this,” Fike said.

Board President Levi Miller said he was not recognizing the motion. “I'm going to take that as a statement that you wish to make. I'm not taking that as a motion,” Miller said. “You've made a campaign statement....That's what I consider it to have been.”

Solicitor Dave Petonic said it was too premature in the process to make such a motion. School districts have until June 30 to approve a final spending plan.

The board did approve a motion in January that any tax increase that may be imposed would not exceed 2.4 percent of the district's current millage.

Fike made a subsequent motion that no tax increase be added to the budget after May 21 that hadn't been in prior to that date. That motion was eventually tabled by a 6-2 vote of the board with Fike and Alt voting no. May 21 is the date of the Primary Election.

Molnar said work would continue on the budget.

“We intend to continue to find ways to try to reduce that deficit,” Molnar said. “We're looking at a number of options of how we might do that....The administration's intent to bring you a budget that's as close to a balanced budget as possible.”

Molnar also said the reason to change the May 2 meeting to a voting meeting was for the possibility of approving a new business manager. Potential candidates are expected to be interviewed later this month.

A replacement is being sought for Bill Salem, who resigned in January after 18 months on the job.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or

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