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Monessen expected to hold line on school taxes

| Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

The Monessen school board is expected to adopt a budget next week that will hold property taxes at 68 mills – and one board member hopes the spending plan will squelch talk of a merger with another district.

Board President Sharon Mauck said keeping district finances in order goes a long way in preventing a merger.

At Tuesday's agenda meeting, the board heard details of the proposed 2013-14 school year budget, which lists expenditures at $13,799,635.

The next business meeting is June 11.

“Obviously, if we can't meet a budget and we can't raise the taxes enough to sustain the district, we would open ourselves up to merging,” Mauck said. “The first thing is the money part, then your enrollment, then everyone else.

“Right now, we're able to stay open and operate without raising taxes, and we don't have to merge with anybody.

Mauck lauded business manager Linda Powell's work on the budget.

“Someday it may happen, I don't know. I don't like the idea,” Mauck said of a merger. “I know we have one or two board members who think they would like to merge, but I don't want to lose the identity of being Monessen and being a Greyhound.

“And I think the people in this town would agree.”

Superintendent Linda Marcolini and Mauck agreed the district is in much better financial shape than this time last year.

Enrollment, however, will drop next year – from 873 to 830.

“When I came in here last year, I was told that in three months, we would be closing our doors in 2014 if we didn't do something,” said Marcolini, adding she worked with three unions on concessions last year.

“Last year was a nightmare. … Not only did the teachers take a pay freeze, they took a step freeze. They bought into it and that helped. … We're still paying the bills. We're doing just fine.”

Marcolini and Mauck agreed that seven teacher retirements – some instructors having more than 40 years with the district – will save more than $500,000 next year.

The board last month recalled two furloughed teachers. It is expected to hire two full-time teachers next week – one elementary instructor and one high school math teacher.

“A lot of things had to happen for us to be able to balance that budget and then come back this year and do this,” Mauck said. “It's a good working atmosphere. And hey, we're still Monessen.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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