Southmoreland director Fike presents dire outlook
By Paul Paterra
Published: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
A Southmoreland School Director does not see a pretty financial picture in the district's future.
In Catherine Fike's words the district is staring at bankruptcy in the coming years.
“This is what's going to happen if something drastic isn't done,” she said at Thursday's meeting of the board. “If nothing is done about the way our school district is run and restructuring does not occur, we will be near or at bankruptcy in three or four years.”
Fike spoke long on her feelings about the financial future of the district at the meeting, stressing three areas where she said huge cost increases are expected — salaries, health care and contributions to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System.
Fike based her report on a number of assumptions including those increases as well as unchanged state subsidies, no layoffs or furloughs and all buildings in the district remaining open.
She said she spent nine hours reviewing numbers and reports, citing her sources as the Pennsylvania School Board Association, the School Leader News, the Tribune Review and the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit. Her findings — she told the board — were the same as those presented by Business Manager Bill Salem in previous scenarios.
This would result in the need for huge tax increases and the evaporation of the fund balance, Fike said.
“I'm looking long-term,” she said. “We'll get through this year, we'll get through next year. That's not the problem.”
She reiterated a stance from earlier in the year that the district should look into closing the primary center and the administration building as a way to save money.
“I don't want my name associated with the economic downfall of this district,” Fike said. “I think we have to take some action to start planning for these things.”
School Director Levi Miller agreed the road ahead will be tough, but isn't certain it's as bad as Fike said. He reminded the board that there could always be changes at the state level in the coming years and who knows what that would mean for public education.
“I'm not quite as pessimistic,” Miller said.
Superintendent John Molnar did present the board a very preliminary look at expenditures and revenues for the 2013-14 budget, which shows revenues of about $25.1 million and expenditures at about $26.8 million, which would mean a $1.7 million shortfall.
He stressed it is extremely early in the process and much work will be done to alleviate as much of the projected shortfall as possible.
“(Salem) projected minimum revenues and maximum expenditures,” Molnar said after Thursday's meeting. “He gave the worst-case scenario and obviously you start whittling from there.”
Molnar said during the meeting that Salem based this early projection of a spending plan on “last year's numbers.”
“Again, this is Nov. 1,” he stressed. “There's no assurances on what the revenues are. That's where we're at a very early stage.”
The board's next meeting originally scheduled for Nov. 8 has been changed to 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at the middle school to allow board members, administration and others involved to attend the high school's annual powder puff football game.
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.