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McKeesport Area board approves early retirement incentive

| Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sixty-three teachers and some administrators with professional certification are eligible for an early retirement incentive approved by McKeesport Area School District`s board of directors.

The board unanimously approved the incentive, open to teachers and other professionals with 25 or more years of service, at a special meeting Wednesday.

'I think it is a great opportunity for the district to help the teachers,' school director Mark Holtzman said, though he admitted some reservations about it.

A workshop followed regarding next week`s agenda, including preliminary action on a $57,536,244 budget with a 17.05-mill tax rate for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

That represents a hike of 0.34 mills over the current 16.71-mill rate, with each mill netting $730,000. It remains the lowest real estate tax rate of any Allegheny County district.

'At this time we`re about $4.2 million out of balance,' said district business manager David Seropian. 'We are still hoping for additional state funding.'

The budget also includes furloughs, reportedly of 96 personnel including 35 teachers, but Seropian declined to confirm that before next week`s meeting.

While there may be fewer personnel, Seropian said, 'We have not cut any program. We are maintaining full-day kindergarten.'

The district anticipates getting $2,438,355 in gaming-fueled property tax relief under state Act 72. That`s about the same as this year.

'Eligible property owners will receive a homestead exclusion estimated to be $322,' said a budget document given to school directors and The Daily News.

While the state House Appropriations Committee approved a proposed 2011-12 budget with more education funding, MASD still is basing its projections on Gov. Tom Corbett`s plan.

The governor said he was bringing the overall basic education subsidy back to the level in 2008-09, before a two-year boost from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

However, Seropian said, the amount to each district is different from 2008-09, when MASD received just under $25.2 million, including almost $22.3 million in its basic subsidy, about $1.1 million in an Accountability Block Grant that covers kindergarten, $656,900 in reimbursements for tuition paid to Propel McKeesport and other charter schools, and $463,132 in other aid.

In 2010-11, according to MASD records, the district received a $24.17 million in basic subsidy, an ABG of just over $1 million, a charter school reimbursement of $828,883 and $3,32,324 in other assistance.

As proposed by the governor, Seropian said, MASD would get just over $21.9 million, with no ABG, charter school or other educational assistance.

As proposed in House Bill 1485, the House Appropriations Committee plan, the district would get $1.47 million more than Corbett proposed. HB 1485 uses different figures from the district or the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

HB 1485 may get a full floor vote Monday. The legislative Democratic minority is holding press briefings to give their spin to the plan. Sen. James R. Brewster, D-McKeesport, is tentatively scheduled to attend a briefing today in Pittsburgh.

Other action scheduled includes change orders for work at Francis McClure Intermediate School and the demolition of homes near the new Cornell complex.

Gerald Tedesco of construction manager Pennsylvania Project Management said heating, ventilation and air conditioning work at McClure started out as a $35,000 additional cost and finished as a $2,690 credit.

One house on the Cornell site has asbestos. Tedesco said there may be time to put out bids to lower the price of remediation there.

First readings are set for policy changes dealing with non-resident students, while votes are set on various contracts, summer programs and a technology book list.

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