The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 21, 2013

School district facing big deficit and hard choices

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — Sharon City School Board on Monday unanimously approved a preliminary budget for the 2013-14 school year includes a $2 million deficit.

That means the board will have to either cut that much, raise taxes or agree to some combination of the two before a final budget is due June 30.

At a packed school board meeting Monday, John Sarandrea, superintendent, proposed ways to balance the budget without raising taxes or having staff incur their third year of wage freezes.

The district can only raise taxes 3.35 mills, which would increase revenues by about $295,000. A wage freeze for Sharon school district employees would save the district nearly $500,000.

“We cannot continue to wage freeze, raise taxes, spend down our savings, or borrow more money,” Sarandrea said.

He said these requests are wearing the patience of everyone involved.

Even though Sharon schools will be receiving an approximately $172,700 increase in basic education funding from the state, nearly all the money will be used to enhance school safety and security.

Sarandrea said this is the third year in a row that state funding has been cut by $2 million and blamed the cut on Gov. Tom Corbett.

“If we’re cut $2 million for four more years, there will be no more Sharon schools,” Sarandrea said.

Instead of a wage freeze, Sarandrea recommended cutting high school positions – an English teacher, a social studies teacher, a family consumer sciences teacher, an art teacher, a part-time science teacher, and a secretary.

Sarandrea said this will save the school $450,000.

Sarandrea made it known that if they are forced to make cuts next year “academic and extracurricular activities will go.”

The first programs “on the chopping block,” according to Sarandrea, will be orchestra and kindergarten. He also said advanced placement classes will most likely rotate annually.

Sarandrea said the Case Avenue building project is not the cause of the $2 million deficit.

Money for the new school comes from the Capital Projects Fund and the school district cannot use the money to balance the General Operating Fund that’s showing a deficit.

“We are just trying to survive for better times so we can put things back into place,” Sarandrea said.

Last year, the district was also facing a $2 million shortfall and solved it by implementing a district-wide staff wage freeze, raised taxes and made major cuts to line items for supplies.

The board  meets next on June 17.