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Southmoreland board plans vote on spending plan

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 6:49 p.m.

The Southmoreland School District will vote on a final budget later this month with no expected real estate tax increase. On June 13, the board said the 2013-2014 school year will have expenditures set at $26,378,342 and revenues expected at $25,424,558, which would create a deficit of $953,784.

The board will offset the deficit by taking funds from the district's fund balance, which is approximately $5.9 million.

However, board member Catherine Fike said she has been asking the wrong questions about the fund balance, but should have been asking about what she called the unassigned fund balance, which is actual money available in the fund balance that has not been assigned or designated for an expense.

“It's how much money we really have left,” Fike said.

Fike said the unassigned fund balance remained steady from 1997 to 2006 at an average of $2 million per year but said there was a depletion of roughly $600,000 per year since 2007, bringing the estimated unassigned fund budget at $684,216 for the 2013-2014 year.

To help prevent the district going to zero dollars in that fund budget, Fike said the district would either have to receive a large surplus of money, raise taxes or cut spending.

She suggested redirecting the $400,000 in bonus money from four retiring teachers to be paid in a six-year period to help replenish the unassigned fund balance.

Later in the meeting, she made a motion to do just that, but the motion did not receive a second and was not brought up for a vote.

Assistant Superintendent Timothy Scott said this year's budget has a $59,678 decrease from last year's proposed budget.

The board will vote on the final budget during its June 27 meeting.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to spend $39,000 a year for 15 years to help pay for the $6.5 million renovation to the Central Westmoreland Career and Technical Center.

Southmoreland will join the other school districts that have students attending the CWCTC in providing money for the much-needed renovation project.

Scott said two districts have already voted to help fund the project. Now that Southmoreland voted to help fund the project, five other districts will have to vote in support of the project, or the renovations won't happen.

Scott added that the CWCTC provides workforce skills necessary as an alternative to college and that many students attending the center have gone on to win national and state awards.

“They're some of the best representatives from our district,” he said.

“We should go ahead with this,” said board member Gail Rhodes. “It's way overdue.”

Board members Ken Alt, Josie Kauffman and Aimee Love were absent from the meeting.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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