Sharpsville area school directors set the cost of public education at $16 million next year and are considering a 2-mill tax increase to help pay for pension obligations to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System.
The budget eliminates several positions and brings some special education services back into the district. Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko said the changes are intended to take advantage of teachers’ subject certifications and to generate new revenue that doesn’t come from property owners in the district.
Directors approved a package of proposals including one calling for four sections of kindergarten with up to 21 students each. That’s a change from six classes, each with 18 students.
The board reduced the number of gym teacher positions from five to four; eliminated the classroom portion of driver’s safety education and, because of expected federal funding reductions, cut Title 1 and special education programs by one-half teaching position each.
The board voted down Ferko’s proposal to eliminate seven classroom aide positions.
Directors authorized creation of two special education classes, one for emotional support and one in the elementary school for autistic support.
Each class would serve up to eight students. Sharpsville this year is paying Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, Grove City, for four students to receive those services outside the district.
Next year, they will return to Sharpsville, Ferko said.
The Intermediate Unit operates classes at schools in Pulaski and Greenville and at Lakeview School District.
“We will send letters to superintendents in the area to tell them about our classes,” Ferko said. “We will be in competition with the IU and the district will market its class.”
The new special education classes aren’t only about money, he said.
“It makes good sense if you have trained staff to bring kids back to their home district,” Ferko said. “They’re getting great service now but I think it’s better for them to get their education along with their friends and neighbors instead of out in the county.”
Ferko said no hiring will be needed to start the classes. The tentative budget doesn’t include any staff layoffs, he added.
Any change in taxes would be voted on June 18 but President Bill Henwood reminded others on the board that the district’s share of pension costs -- a percentage of salaries -- is increasing.
Director David DeForest said the 24 percent rate will increase to 30 percent of payroll in 2017.
The district has 80 teachers and 54 support staff, 29 of them full-time.
Director Gary “Gus” Grandy voted against the budget, saying the board went through it only once before introducing it.
“We should have gone over it several times to be clear about what we’re doing,” he said.
Any change in property taxes would be set at the June 18 meeting.
Property taxes this year are 68.75 mills in the district that serves Sharpsville, Clark and South Pymatuning Township. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value; assessments are the 1970 market value. At 70.75 mills, a property assessessed at $10,000 would carry a tax bill of $707.50
Budget at a glance
Here is a breakdown of Sharpsville Area School District’s proposed 2014-15 budget of $16,030,160, with current-year figures in parentheses:
• Instruction – $9,337,385 (8,901,409)
Salaries – unavailable
Benefits – unavailable
• Support Services – $4,984,962 ($4,831,945)
• Adminstration – $1,162,483 ($1,162,483).
• Noninstructional – $420,997 ($357,330)
• Capital expenses – $0 ($0)
• Debt and reserve – $1,286,816 ($1,281,051)
• Local taxes, including a 70.75-mill real estate levy – $5,514,798 ($5,342,548)
• State funds – $9,615,887 ($9,067,037)
• Federal funds – $15,000 ($140,000)
• Fund balance – unavailable