NA Patch: North Allegheny School Board President says District is Facing the ‘Perfect Storm’

Posted: October 4, 2012 in Press Coverage
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School Board President Maureen Grosheider told parents at an Hosack Elementary PFA meeting that “very difficult” decisions will have to be made this year.

 

The Budget

North Allegheny school board President Maureen Grosheider told a group of approximately 50 parents Tuesday night at the Hosack Elementary PFA meeting that the district was facing the “perfect storm” in trying to come up with a balanced budget for next year.

“What we have is a situation where we have fewer and fewer dollars to use for classroom instruction,” she said. “And whatever increased money we get from the state is going for mandated pension contributions and transportation. Add to that, we are also paying the full load for cyber and charter schools. This year, that cost to the North Allegheny School district is $1.4 million dollars.”

Board members Linda Bishop and Beth Ludwig also attended the meeting.

Bishop acknowledged at the Sept. 19 school board meeting that the district is facing an $8 million deficit, and one of the prime culprits is the state mandated pension contributions.

“Our contribution went up $2.3 million this year, and will go up another $3 million next year,” she said. “By 2015, unless the state legislature does something, we will be looking at $20 million in pension contributions each year.”

Bishop also said the district is limited in its ability to raise taxes because of a state limit that ties tax increases to the cost of living.

“We could propose a larger increase, but that would have to go to a voter referendum,” she said. “70-75-percent of the people who live in the North Allegheny district don’t have children in school. Convincing them of the need to raise their property taxes is a difficult proposition.”

Closing Peebles Elementary

Parents in the audience Tuesday night expressed concerns about the increasing class sizes at several of the elementary schools, and a consultant’s recommendation to close Peebles Elementary.

“I’m not sure the board is ready to decide about closing a building,” Grosheider said. “We need more information from the administration on how we would redistribute the students. Where are the pockets of growth and non-growth. The administration has to look at this from a practical point of view, before any decisions are made.”

Laurel Schreiber, a parent, said a lot of parents are upset because there is not a lot of equity among the elementary schools when it comes to class sizes.

Ingomar and Hosack have the largest class sizes,” she said.

Grosheider said the district worked hard to keep the K-2 classes smaller, but was more flexible with grades 3-5.

Ludwig said in the past, the board would have simply hired another teacher to reduce the number of students per class.

“We are not in the economic times where we can just add a teacher,” she said. “We are not hiring, we are not replacing teachers who retire, the money is simply not there.”

Parent’s Reaction

After the meeting Schreiber said she was grateful the board appeared to be listening to her, and other parents’, concerns.

“I hope that the school board will continue to evaluate whether the projected capacity they are forecasting is a realistic capacity– and that they will continue to explore the ramifications of closing an elementary building,” she said. “Many of us are far from convinced that closing a building will result in smaller classroom sizes across the district.”

Before the board can vote to close a school, it must hold at least one public hearing, advertised at least 15 days in advance. The board cannot vote for at least three months after the hearing.

Board President Maureen Grosheider said the board will have new demographic data at its next meeting that could potentially impact recommendations about any potential school closings. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24.

http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-school-board-president-says-district-is-facing-the-perfect-storm

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