Salisbury Press

Monday, February 18, 2019


Wednesday, February 14, 2018 by MARGE HOPKINS Special to The Press in Local News

Operations committee considers wants vs. needs

The first item on the agenda at the Feb. 5 Salisbury Township School District operations committee meeting was the resolution against Senate Bill 2 concerning a voucher program for underperforming school districts.

Though Salisbury is a high performing district falling in the top 10 percentile nationwide, according to Director George Gatanis, and would not be affected by the passing of the bill, the committee questioned what doors would open next that could be impactful.

The voucher program designated by Senate Bill 2 would offer parents of students in the lowest performing districts in the Commonwealth funds to be used for an education savings account for their children.

“The money could be used for private and parochial schools, a list of educational services and beyond graduation for college,” Superintendent Dr. Randy Ziegenfuss said.

“It’s basically siphoning money away from public education.”

“Well, why don’t they just take the money and give it to the lowest performing schools – fix what is broken?” Director Mary Ziegler asked.

“Who is going to police the money?” Ziegler asked.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association developed the resolution in protest of the bill and the Salisbury Township School District Board of Directors made modifications to include their thoughts.

Members of the board were asked to further review the resolution, adjust language and/or make suggestions.

The resolution was scheduled for a vote at the Feb. 7 board meeting.

The committee also reviewed expenses, the needs and wants in the district.

A $13,200 fitness room at Salisbury Middle School was one of the expenses under review.

The needs included a $51,000 Dixie Chopper lawn mower to replace one no longer operational, $20,000 for new ceiling tiles at Harry S Truman Elementary School and $20,000 for flooring.

Although the expenses would come from the district’s capital reserve fund, they were being discussed at a time when the 2018-2019 budget is being prepared with possible tax increases and an examination of ways to use additional resources to trim the gap in the budget.

The district’s reserve fund has a balance of $484,000, not including the $65,000 commitment for the varsity girls softball dugouts.

Board Secretary and Business Administrator Robert Bruchak noted a healthy emergency reserve for the district would be between $200,000 to $500,000.

Assistant Superintendent Lynn Fuini-Hetten noted Salisbury applied for a Highmark Blue Shield grant of $7,500 for some of the expenses for the fitness room.

When asked about going forward with the fitness room, Director Robert Kulp expressed some concern about the expense.

“I am ok with it, but hopefully we can make up some of the money from donations from other organizations.”

Zeigler and Director Carol Klinger mentioned the need for attention to the curriculum and the importance of giving the middle school students additional electives with a focus on fitness.

Gatanis said when reviewing the proposed expenses, including the fitness room, the district has to determine whether the cost is a need or a want.

Regarding the expense for the Dixie Chopper lawn mower, Director of Maintenance, Buildings and Grounds William Brackett noted a larger lawn mower deck will allow for less cutting time and a return of 60-man hours to be used elsewhere.

The Dixie Chopper can be purchased with a snowblower attachment for an additional $7,000. The snowblower attachment, continued Brackett, will help aid the cleaning of the sidewalks in the district.

The committee unanimously opted to go forward with the first phase of the fitness room without a change in the HVAC and ventilation system at SMS, the Dixie Chopper lawn mower with snowblower attachment and the ceiling tiles project at HST.

The preliminary 2018-2019 budget update presented by Bruchak outlined budgetary shortfalls that will require the district apply for the allowable exceptions in the ACT I Index. Currently the millage for the district is 18.4527.

With the ACT I index of .4429 mills, special education exception of .4512 and Public School Employees’ Retirement System exception of .0822, there would be a millage increase.

Bruchak said the district is looking at estimated revenues of $36.5 million and projected expenses of $38,301,131. With the exceptions available to the district, the increase would be approximately 5.291 percent.

For the average homeowner that would relate to a $100 increase, considering the 2.4 percent ACT I Index. With the special education exception, the number would double to $200.

With the exceptions and ACT I Index, the budget still has a shortfall of $305,000.

Bruchak suggested the board go forward with the preliminary budget at the next meeting and continue to examine ways to trim some expenditures. Bruchak also noted the state may allocate additional funding for public education.

Director Frank Frankenfield said each year the district deals with the same struggles.

“We have to find legislators that are on our side,” Frankenfield said.

The board was expected to vote on the preliminary budget during the Feb. 7 board meeting.