PA passes preliminary $43.1 million spending plan


First Posted: 5/24/2013

The Pittston Area School Board passed a preliminary 2013-2014 school year budget during Thursday night’s monthly meeting.

The tentative budget assumes a $421,997 shortfall with an anticipated $43,183,436 in expenditures, but only $42,761,439 in revenues.

Furthermore, the proposed budget would feature an increase in the property rate taxes from the current rate of 13.4246 mills to 13.7333 mills and the closure of the Benjamin Franklin Kindergarten Center in Dupont.

By contrast, the district’s 2012-2013 school year budget called for $41,479,521 in revenues but it is anticipated that the school year will end with $42,342,228 in expenses.

It is estimated that $226,000 in salary, maintenance and utility expenses will be saved with the closure of the Kindergarten Center.

Al Melone, a financial consultant contracted by the district, noted that this budget could look drastically different from what is finally adopted in July or August of this year.

He also noted that the deficit, although troublesome, is characteristic of national trends in school funding.

He did however warn district officials to effectively prepare to eliminate future debt increases in order to avoid being labeled a distressed school district.

All school board members present at the meeting voted to accept the preliminary budget.

Board members Marilyn Starna and Joseph Kelly were absent from the meeting.

Board President Charles Sciandra, upon voting for acceptance, advised all members to look for ways to increase funding so as to close out the debt and potentially avoid the tax increase.

One such measure may have been put into effect following Melone’s budget presentation. The board voted to extend the district’s busing contract with Pace Transportation for an additional five years.

Although exact figures were not given, Pace estimates that $60,000 each year can be saved under the proposed expansion. This estimate was not included in the budget, as the measure had not been passed when Melone was making budget preparations.

Board member Robert Linskey, who supported the contract extension, but preferred a three year term to five, cast the sole opposition vote.

Kent Bratlee abstained. The district also hopes to save money by having some cyber schooled students utilize Pittston Area’s cyber curriculum.

Melone estimates that the district currently pays $700,000 in tuition each year to other school districts. Superintendent Michael Garzella has regularly emphasized the importance of improving district cyber-schooling abilities as a means to better serve the community and save the district money.

He estimates that roughly 85 students leave the district for out of district cyber schools and charter schools, but he is confident that that figure will be significantly reduced in the coming school years.

Next for Pittston Area: Regular School Board Meeting, Tuesday, June 18, at 7 p.m.

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