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Pittsburgh school board OKs $521.8 million budget for 2013

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 9:10 p.m.

The city school board cut the operating budget for 2013 on Wednesday and is looking for ways to reduce costs and raise more money.

The board unanimously adopted an operating budget of $521.8 million with no increase in the earned income or real estate transfer taxes. The board will vote on the property tax rate next month; the administration has proposed freezing that rate, too.

The 2013 budget is 1.5 percent less than this year's budget totaling $529.8 million. Nearly $10 million was taken from the operating balance to avoid a deficit.

The administration projects its surplus will be gone by 2015.

There was no discussion of the budget during the meeting, but afterward board member Bill Isler said, “This is not something we did lightly.”

The Pittsburgh Public Schools faces numerous challenges. Enrollment has dropped from 32,661 students in grades K-12 in 2004 to 24,889 this year because of competition from charter, parochial and private schools. The district projects its contributions for employee pensions will double from $21.1 million this year to $43.7 million in 2015.

The district saved nearly $50 million between June 2011 and July 2012 by cutting 217 central office employees, closing seven schools and taking other steps. It has 3,900 employees, including 1,875 teachers.

“We wouldn't want our financial staff to do a Houdini lest they end up in a straitjacket,” joked board member Jean Fink.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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