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Greensburg Salem pitches tax increase

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Greensburg Salem school directors on Wednesday proposed a 1.25-mill tax hike for the next school year and eliminating three new staff positions that they previously considered filling.

The average district taxpayer — one who owns a home assessed at $16,410 — would pay about $21 more under the latest proposal.

The board is expected to vote on the final budget on Wednesday. They can make changes to the proposed budget before that vote.

Director Rich Guerrieri suggested the 1.25-mill rate.

“I think I could support that,” director Frank Gazze replied, with Ron Mellinger agreeing.

Directors said they were balancing current needs with future concerns about funding woes. Last month, business manager James Meyer cautioned directors that he is projecting nearly $1.5 million in increased expenses for 2014-15, much of that related to salaries, pension and health insurance costs.

Overall, the proposed budget totals about $41.1 million. In addition to the nearly $285,000 coming from the proposed 1.25-mill increase, directors would need to take about $1.16 million from the capital reserve to balance the latest proposal. About $1.8 million is projected to remain in reserve, based on the discussion.

Under the latest plan, an elementary school learning-support teacher, a middle school guidance counselor and a high school dean of students would be hired. Another elementary learning-support teacher, a middle school alternative education teacher and a high school guidance counselor — new positions the board previously had considered filling — would be cut.

The district will continue to hire another 12 full-time teachers and one part-day teacher, most replacing teachers who retired or resigned.

At the secondary level, music, math and science teachers would be hired, along with three physical education teachers, one working half a day.

In elementary schools, six teachers and a guidance counselor would be hired.

Directors previously backed a tentative budget calling for a 1.75-mill increase, the most they are allowed under Act 1 of 2006.

“I can't support 1.75 mills,” director Lee Kunkle said early in the discussion. “Absolutely not.”

“I could not vote for a 1.75-mill increase,” Mellinger added. “I'd like to take more out of the fund balance at this time.”

Administrators said that ideally they would have liked to keep the other positions now proposed for cutting, but understand the funding constraints.

Superintendent Eileen Amato said she doesn't believe many more cuts could even been made.

“Like we said last month, if we cut now, it's arms and legs,” she said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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