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State adjustment adds $17K to spending plan at Southmoreland

| Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Southmoreland School District's 2013-14 budget now reflects an increase in the state subsidy.

School directors voted on Thursday to reopen the spending plan.

The district will receive an additional $16,697 from the state, which raises the total to $10,581,605, according to Superintendent John Molnar.

Business Manager James Marnell said $10,011 will go toward basic education and $6,686 toward special education.

The $26 million budget was approved in June with a $953,754 deficit and will require drawing from a $5 million fund balance. The budget included no tax increase.

The board approved creating two positions, despite disapproval from two directors.

Much of the discussion centered on a half-time guidance counselor position at the elementary school.

The board voted May 23 to eliminate an elementary school counselor, one of four positions cut, which would have dropped the number of guidance counselors from five to four.

Director Catherine Fike questioned 4.5 guidance counselor positions for the upcoming year.

“What's his authority to create a position that we voted to eliminate?” asked Fike about Molnar. “My concern is why bother coming to the board and having us eliminate a position, when you just ... created it? Why are we here?”

Molnar referred to a motion unanimously approved May 23 to authorize administrators to realign professional personnel as needed. The person would serve as a guidance counselor for half of the day and as a first-grade teacher the remainder of the day.

“We did not hire any additional staff,” Molnar said. “We found ways to continue to provide that service to our kindergarten and especially to our first-graders without adding anyone to the payroll.”

Director Ken Alt echoed Fike's sentiments.

“We eliminated a position and we got half of a position back,” he said. “Nobody said that was supposed to happen. Why is there that position? We didn't need it to begin with, why is there that position now?”

Director James Beistel supported the move.

“If they decided it's better for the students, I'm behind it 100 percent,” he said. “They didn't hire (anybody) to make another half of a position. It's probably better for the students, and if the administration feels that way, I've got to support it.”

President Levi Miller said Molnar's effort to realign staff was “totally within the spirit of what the board wanted him to do.”

Alt then left the meeting.

“This board carries no weight,” he said. “The administration can do what it wants. I've got better things to do with my time since my votes and whatever I say doesn't count. I'm going home.”

A motion to create the guidance-teacher position passed by a 6-0 vote.

Fike left before that vote, saying she could not vote on an another “illegal” motion to create the position of special education team leader at the high school.

Miller expressed regret at the directors' departures.

“A part of governance is respecting how an orderly society does its business and how it tries to respect the will of the majority of those selected to the board as well as the citizens,” Miller said. “Governance is the art of listening to each other and trying to come up with a solution, which is somewhat different than holding up a placard or making a speech saying ‘This is the way, no other way.' ... I regret when those voices are not here, but I also regret when they're not willing to honor how a democracy should work.”

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

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