Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Budget Balancing Act Tax Hike, Funding, Job Cuts, Tap of Reserves Characterize Plan

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Budget Balancing Act Tax Hike, Funding, Job Cuts, Tap of Reserves Characterize Plan

Article excerpt

After a months-long budget-making process some of them said was their most difficult to date, Mt. Lebanon school directors approved a final 2012-13 spending plan Monday night that will raise the property tax rate by a half mill and includes $850,000 in program and staff cuts.

No teachers will be furloughed in the $80.6 million budget, but the district will furlough one 10-month secretary, six part-time library clerks and one high school library clerk. The millage increase will mean an extra $50 a year for a home valued at $100,000, and the total millage is 27.13 mills.

The board will use roughly $100,000 in reserve funds, less than proposed in earlier talks. The budget vote was unanimous. Board member Mary Birks was not present.

A combination of cuts, a millage increase and use of reserve funds enabled the district to close its $1.9 million budget gap. Board President Josephine Posti said throughout the process school districts across Pennsylvania have been facing similar budget concerns because of pension obligations at the state and local levels, among other things.

The district will save $60,000 by settling on the equivalent of 3 1/2 full-time elementary counselors for next year, as one elementary counselor will transfer to replace a secondary counselor who retired. There are currently 4 1/2 full-time equivalent elementary counselors this year; administrators have pledged to closely monitor the new plan they said will equally distribute the staff among the district's seven elementary schools.

During the citizen comment period, three residents implored the board to consider scrapping the plan that one resident said is "on the backs of our most vulnerable students."

"This is a very, very, very difficult issue for all of us," board member Lawrence Lebowitz told residents, "and I really am struggling with this particular issue."

Mr. Lebowitz said he ultimately supported the budget with this counseling plan because he trusts the staff that suggested it, believes school personnel will step in with extra help and is sure the results will be examined closely. …

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