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Lack of quorum cancels CAHS budget workshop

| Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Connellsville Area School District budget workshop did not take place Wednesday due to a lack of a quorum. Only directors Ed Zadylak and Jon Detwiler and business manager Gene Cunningham were present. They informally discussed the $64.22 million budget, which does not include a tax increase. Property tax remains at 12.6 mills, unchanged since 2004.

Superintendent James Duncan and other board members were reportedly meeting with an attorney.

Nearly 40 parents and taxpayers are seeking an injunction to prevent the closure of three elementary schools and realigning grades. Testimony begins today at 1:30 p.m. before Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Ralph Warman in Courtroom 3.

Connellsville attorney Richard Bower filed the lawsuit, which names directors Francis Mongell, Karen Blocker, Jeffrey Harvey, Loretta Lint, Denise Martin and James Fabian. Fabian voted against closing Connellsville Township, Dunbar Borough and South Side elementary schools, but voted to realign grades -- elementary, kindergarten through fourth; middle school, fifth through eighth; and high school, ninth through 12th.

Zadylak, Detwiler and Kevin Lape voted against both motions and are not named as defendants.

Neither Zadylak nor Detwiler knew about Wednesday's meeting with counsel.

Cunningham informally discussed the final $64.2 million 2008-2009 budget, which does not include a millage increase. The tax rate is 12.6 mills. Each mill yields about $900,000 for the district.

Cunningham said he found $313,200 in expenditure reductions since the last budget meeting. The largest were a $200,000 reduction in transportation and $69,100 in supplemental contracts.

On the revenue side, Fayette County provided a final assessment figure that was $73,500 higher than Cunningham had estimated.

The net result is a deficit of $768,900. In order to prevent a tax increase, Cunningham said the fund balance can make up the difference, leaving it at about $5.292 million, from $6.061 million.

Zadylak, chairman of finance, said he could not support this budget. Both Zadylak and Detwiler voted against the preliminary budget in May.

"This budget is too high," he said last night. He pointed out that the 2006-07 budget was $58.31 million, contrasted with the $64.2 million budget directors will vote on next week. Cunningham said the budget has increased 10.14 percent since 2006-07.

As the budget increases, enrollment has been declining. The district loses about $310,000 in state revenue for each 100 students who leave the district. In 2006-07, the district had 5,468 students. At the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, 5,377 students were enrolled.

The current budget equals $12,000 per student, Zadylak said. "It was $11,500 per student last year."

He said the other board members and Duncan should have attended the workshop. "This is priority. We'll probably go in Monday and vote and that will be it."

A nonvoting agenda session will take place at 8 p.m. Monday in the high school cafeteria, with directors scheduled to vote on the budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the high school cafeteria. Directors may delay a vote on the budget and schedule a special meeting. According to state law, the district must approve a final budget by June 30.

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