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Valley News Dispatch

Allegheny Valley School District opts for keeping staff, raising taxes

| Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 2:51 p.m.

Three Allegheny Valley School District educators will get to keep their jobs after almost two dozen residents pleaded on their behalf to school board members.

But the decision not to furlough the employees will come with a price.

The school board reversed its decision to furlough junior-senior high Assistant Principal Peter Simpson, technology teacher John McDermott and elementary teacher Kelly Slomka after residents ranging from current students to retirees turned out to support the trio at the school board's latest meeting.

The pleas were compelling, causing board members to scrap plans for a zero tax increase budget that would have eliminated the three jobs, in addition to that of another teacher who is retiring.

Instead, the board gave preliminary approval to a budget that retains the three educators but raises taxes by 2 percent.

Retiring social studies teacher Kathleen McQuade will not be replaced.

The school board will have its final vote Monday on the budget of a little more than $23 million that will see a millage jump from 20.3494 mills to 20.8377 mills. The proposed budget also would take about $200,000 from the district's fund balance.

The new proposed budget is similar to one the district considered in May, including the tax increase.

Superintendent Patrick Graczyk said the district also is waiting to see if other teachers opt for the early retirement incentive package the district announced several months ago, which could reduce payroll costs for the district.

Board President Nino Pollino said the district will have a better idea next year, once the expanded Acmetonia Primary Center is complete and all elementary students are there, what positions might no longer be needed.

Still, the idea of staff cuts in the district did not sit well with many residents.

Educator Jennifer Novich of Springdale Township said she was “disappointed and angered” at the proposed cuts to teachers and programs, and it is “absurd to think that cutting staff is the answer.”

Tammy Campas was one of many who called for a tax increase that was reflected in the preliminary budget passed in May.

Campas said she realizes there are many elderly residents living on fixed incomes who won't be happy, but there were elderly people who didn't like tax increases 50 years ago.

“That's always going to be an issue,” Campas said.

Former school board member Scott Redman said he realizes what the board is going through and sometimes the “politically unpopular” move of raising taxes is what's needed and the school board “should err on the side of maintaining staff.”

Some, such as businessman Jason Overly, credited the district's STEM program, where science, technology, engineering and math are the focus, with their personal success in the business world.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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