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Greensburg Salem passes preliminary budget

Jacob Tierney
| Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 9:51 p.m.

Greensburg Salem school board passed a $43.6 million preliminary budget with a 5-2 vote Wednesday, but board members and administrators said significant changes are likely before a final budget is adopted next month.

Board members Frank Gazze, Charlotte Kemerer, Richard Payha, Nicholas Rullo and Barbara Vernail supported the preliminary budget. Ronald Mellinger and Robin Savage voted against it, citing a proposed 2.7 mill tax increase and the use of more than $500,000 in reserve funds.

“I want a balanced budget, and we don't have that,” Savage said.

Board members Jeffrey Metrosky and Stephen Thomas were not at the meeting.

The board scheduled a special meeting June 13 to hash out the budget. The final budget likely will be passed at the board's June 29 meeting.

“This is a work-in-progress budget,” said district business manager Jim Meyer, “I can tell you, sitting here today, that these numbers are going to change.”

The preliminary budget would cost the district about $1 million more than it spent in 2015-16, with most of the increase driven by an additional $877,000 in mandatory retirement contributions.

The district is considering hiring a guidance counselor and a life skills teacher. It also will have to spend about $100,000 on software and textbooks to update its curriculum, and an additional $171,000 more than last year to send a growing number of high school students to receive vocational training at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.

The proposed tax increase would cost the average district property owner about $52 more a year.

Board members bandied about cost-cutting measures, like saving money on athletic equipment or opening up district services to a competitive bid.

“Is there anything you have in this budget that you can put out there so that people can compete, so that maybe we can see some savings?” Mellinger asked.

Meyer said major services that can be put out to bid, like food service and transportation, already have been within the last few years, and the district is locked into those contracts.

“We are trying as a district to control our costs as much as we can,” he said.

Superintendent Eileen Amato said any cuts that can be made are likely to negatively impact students.

“The things that had little impact we cut. They're already gone,” she said.

Savage said she hopes the board can work with administrators to find savings and craft a balanced budget.

The preliminary budget will be posted on the district's website, greensburgsalem.org, within the next few days.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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