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Valley News Dispatch

New Kensington-Arnold School District recalls 15 furloughed teachers

| Thursday, June 22, 2017, 11:55 p.m.

The New Kensington-Arnold School Board have reinstated 15 furloughed teachers and more could be returning next month.

Those 15 recalled Thursday night represent less than half of the 37 teachers given notice that they might lose their jobs at the end of the school year.

But Superintendent John Pallone said a further round of recalls would most likely be announced during the board's next meeting on July 27. “This is the first round; we'll be calling back some more next month,” Pallone said. “We're just waiting to hear from a few teachers that are on leave.”

Pallone couldn't say how many of the remaining furloughed teachers would be recalled, but he said not to expect to see all of the teachers return for the coming school year.

Teachers union President Connie Vita praised the furlough recalls and thanked the board for doing so.

“I'm glad they called these teachers back; it will make for a better summer for them,” she said. “But I hope they all get called back.”

The board previously blamed the furloughs on declining student enrollment, the consolidation project that closed two schools three years ago and program cuts.

History repeats itself

Historically, most furloughed teachers have been called back.

The board has followed a similar pattern for the past two school years, announcing in 2016 that 21 teachers would be furloughed. Ultimately, at least 18 were called back.

In 2015, 24 teachers were cut before the board brought back all but three before the end of summer. The same thing happened in 2011.

More than 20 teachers were on the furlough list in 2014, but all were recalled.

Shrinking population, tax base

The district's student population has been steadily declining. According to information provided by Pallone, enrollment at the end of 2004 was 2,520. This year, 1,958 students were enrolled.

According to Jeff McVey, director of administrative services, falling district home values have resulted in lower tax revenue.

Additionally, the cost of pension contributions has steadily increased in the past 10 years, up to $1.6 million this school year from $350,000 in 2007-08.

Voting to reinstate the teachers were board President Bob Pallone, Vice President Pat Petit, members Robert Fusia, Liney Glenn, Ron Balla Sr., Kathleen Clark and Kristin O'Sullivan.

Eric Doutt and Ellyse Williams were absent.

No tax hike

The board also voted unanimously to keep the current property tax rate for another school year.

The district's real estate tax rate will remain at 83.27 for 2017-18.

Balla, formerly a New Kensington councilman, praised the board's efforts at keeping the tax rate steady.

“I served the city council for 16 years and never voted for a tax increase, and I'm extremely proud to vote again for this school district not to have a tax increase,” he said.

Keeping the tax rate the same means a house in the New Kensington-Arnold School District with an assessed value of $15,000 will continue to incur an annual tax bill of about $1,249.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675 or mmedsger@tribweb.com.

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