ShareThis Page
Westmoreland

Jeannette schools faced with furloughs, tax hike and realignment

Renatta Signorini
| Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Jeannette school directors will vote next week on a preliminary 2017-18 budget that includes a property tax increase, staff furloughs and a realignment of seventh and eighth grades.

The board directed business manager Paul Sroka to prepare a spending plan that includes a 1.5-mill property tax increase — which would cost the average taxpayer about $17 more annually. The median house value in the district is about $11,340 based on the last countywide property assessment conducted in 1973, Sroka said.

One mill brings in $61,000.

Several directors balked at a proposal to raise taxes by 3 mills. The district currently assesses a tax rate of $85 — or 85 mills — per $1,000 of assessed property value.

“People in this town cannot afford a tax increase ... year after year after year,” said Director Joseph Yorio. “We have to do what's necessary now.”

Taxable properties in the city have decreased by $3.7 million since the 2011-12 school year as businesses have left and properties have been revalued, Sroka said. In the past year alone, the amount of taxable properties decreased by $293,270, he said.

“A one-mill increase nets you nothing,” Sroka told the board.

Property taxes in the district are collected at a rate of 76 percent.

Officials said they will still have to use money from the district's $1.2 million fund balance in addition to the proposed 1.5-mill increase to bridge the remaining budget gap. Expenses for 2017-18 are pegged at about $19 million — a $100,000 decrease from the 2016-17 school year, Sroka said.

The budget shortfall was almost $1 million earlier this year. Enrollment has declined steadily over the past several years.

Directors have wrestled with a realignment proposal that would move seventh- and eighth-graders from McKee K-8 School into the high school in an effort to better disperse students and save about $400,000.

About three-quarters of the district's students attend McKee.

Sroka said he is preparing the budget for a vote next week with the two grades that would be realigned, even though directors did not state which budget they preferred during a public meeting Monday.

“I was told by the board at the conclusion of the meeting, when asked, to put a K-6 budget together,” Sroka said.

That proposal comes with a furlough of 9.5 staff members.

The district has 93 teaching positions and about 1,000 students.

An alternate suggestion that would keep the two grades at McKee came with a furlough of 7.5 positions, which would save about $250,000. If the students stay at McKee, the number of programs would be reduced.

Paul Shifko, Jeannette Education Association president, told directors that teachers support the board making a decision that will prolong the district's viability.

“You have our support if it's in what we think is the best interest,” Shifko said. “And if it's not, I think you know we will speak up.”

If the realignment is approved, district officials have a preliminary plan to keep the seventh- and eighth-graders separated from older students. The groups would have different arrival, dismissal and class schedules, separate bus transportation and different meal periods.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me