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Southmoreland board approves 2013-14 budget

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 6:13 p.m.

The Southmoreland School District has a budget for the 2013-2014 school year and it does not include a tax increase.

However, two school directors who voted against the spending plan again expressed their feelings that the district is heading for dire financial straights.

The board approved a budget June 27 that sets expenditures at $26,378,342 and revenues at $25,424,588. The deficit of $953,7874 is to be offset by the fund balance. Millage is set at 71.0759 mills for Westmoreland County and 14 mills for Fayette County. One mill generates approximately $108,000 for the school district.

Superintendent John Molnar said when the preliminary budget was approved May 23 that the millages were actually slightly lower than last year. The millage for the Westmoreland County in the 2012-2013 school year was 71.06 and the Fayette County millage rate was 14.0281

The motion passed by a 6-2 vote with school directors Catherine Fike and Ken Alt voting against the motion. Board President Levi Miller was not in attendance last night.

“Next year we will be bankrupt if we continue our present course, which is to use our unassigned fund balance,” Alt said. “(It's) a practice that will leave us bankrupt next year as there will be no money in the savings for which to close the budget deficit.”

Alt went on to say that the district's two previous business managers — Bill Porter and Bill Salem — also forsesaw the same dire financial straights.

“Two previous former business managers have told us we're on the path to bankruptcy,” Alt said. “When do we stop stealing from our children's piggy banks? The administration knows it has not presented this board with any viable alternatives. When do we wake up and realize this sort of budget planning is taking us into bankruptcy?....When do we start cutting the fluff. We haven't cut anything. It's time for serious discussion about finances and where to go from here.”

Molnar said at that May 23 meeting that the district's fund balance is $5.9 million and that much of the money taken from the fund balance actually will be returned.

Fike said there is an additional $704,000 being withdrawn from the fund balance. “(It's) classified as income,” she said. “It shows this budget has a $1.7 million deficit between revenues and expenses.”

Alt also reiterated a stance he and Fike have made at earlier meetings that the district should put together a financial plan covering anywhere from three to 10 years.

New Business Manager Jim Marnell said if the board directed him to do so that he would undertake that task.

“The common sense approach is always to be fiscally prudent,” Marnell said when asked by School Director Josie Kauffman for advice. Marnell added he felt the district would do just that.

The board approved a series of other motions in relation to the budget, all of which were approved by the eight board members in attendance.

These included the establishment of the real estate taxation for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. That motion included the following:

A 2-percent discount if paid between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30.

Face value when paid from Oct. 1 to Nov. 29.

Ten-percent penalty when paid on Dec. 2 and thereafter.

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