Quaker Valley officials seek to close budget gap

Bobby Cherry
| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Nearly everything from school supplies to jobs and student field trips could be on the chopping block as Quaker Valley administrators look to close an almost $800,000 gap in the 2013-14 budget.

The roughly $42 million budget includes a $451,500 increase for payment into the Public School Employees' Retirement System — known as PSERS, putting Quaker Valley's total to nearly $3.2 million.

The retirement fund is a source of frustration, Superintendent Joseph Clapper said.

“The PSERS cost has nothing to do with educating students,” he said. “It is a state-mandated pension obligation.”

School board members won't approve a budget until at least May and must have one approved by the end of June, but district leaders have been working on the budget throughout the year, Clapper said.

District leaders in the fall pledged to not raise taxes, and legally must adjust tax rates so not to receive a revenue windfall from the Allegheny County property assessments.

As it stands in Gov. Tom Corbett's preliminary budget, Quaker Valley could see a $20,000 basic education funding increase — to $1.185 million, Clapper said.

“(A) $20,000 increase is very nominal — approximately $10 per student,” he said.

“This increase does not even restore the funding level that existed in 2010-11.”

In 2010-11, Quaker Valley received about $1.2 million in basic education funding.

After five years of receiving a little more than $787,000 each year in special education funding, Quaker Valley could see a $3,000 decrease for next year — a minor decrease that still has ramifications in a tight budget, Clapper said.

“Because our special education program has not experienced any increases in funding for the last several years, additional costs have been absorbed by local funds,” he said.

With its employee groups, Quaker Valley leaders have had “ongoing dialogue … about salary concessions” including with its teachers union, Clapper said.

“The clerical support union has taken a pay freeze for the current school year,” he said. “All school administrators in the district have accepted a wage freeze for the 2013-14 school year.”

Along with salary costs come health care contributions.

Teachers and administrators contribute about 12 percent of the annual health care premium, Clapper said.

Support staff contribute about 8 percent of the annual premium, he said.

Over the last several years, 33 district positions have been eliminated, with nearly all of them through attrition, Clapper said.

“Only three furloughs occurred — a teaching position, an administrative position and a support position,” he said.

There could be “nominal position eliminations this year through attrition,” Clapper said.

Clapper said the “proverbial elephant in the room” with regard to the district's budget is the employee retirements.

“Obviously, there needs to be a change in the PSERS system — both for future and for current employees,” he said.

“There are numerous suggestions being made by legislators as well as the governor. The solution will need to be a balanced approach.”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 orrcherry@tribweb.com.

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