School district braces for state budget cuts

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School
Board is dealing with the impact of a possible $1.1 million reduction in
Pennsylvania funding for the 2011-2012.

Approximately $600,000 of the cut
would come from the state legislature approving the governor’s proposed budget
cut for social security tax reimbursement. The balance of the Pennsylvania
contribution to the school district budget is the result of reductions in federal
stimulus money.

Gov. Tom Corbett's budget seeks to alter how school
districts are reimbursed for Social Security taxes paid on behalf of the
employees. It would affect 158 Pennsylvania school districts with the lowest
aid ratios, the measurement used by the state to determine the relative wealth
of a district.

The lower the aid ratio, the more
affluent the state considers the district. The change will only affect the
reimbursement for employees hired since 1994. The overall cut for schools in
the governor’s proposed 2011-12 budget is $589.8 million.

U-CF Superintendent Sharon Parker
led a special school board meeting on March 29 to layout $1,723,000 optional
cuts to the district’s budget for next school year. Her objective, she said, is to eliminate a net $1,096,711
budget shortfall, triggered by the governor’s proposed budget.

According to Parker, “It is
important to note that this is the beginning of the process and there remains
several key events and discussions ahead before reduction decisions are made
and the final budget is approved in June.”

School Board Directors Jeff
Hellrung, Timotha Trigg, Eileen Bushelow, and Holly Manzone independently
commented that they object to budget cuts directly impacting curriculum and
pupil services.

Trigg, the school board
president, said, “Five of the nine school board directors currently have their
kids attending U-CF schools. “

UCFSD employees attended the
meeting, with several commenting on possible cuts that could eliminate several
jobs and four unpaid furlough days for administrative staff.

Hellrung said, “Few school
district taxpayers have attended the UCFSD budget meetings. The local taxpayers cannot afford
huge school tax increases. A 1
percent tax increase is a great burden on our taxpayers.”

School Board Director Keith
Knauss said, “There are many unknowns regarding the proposed 2011 – 2012 UCFSD
budget. The unsettled teachers’ contract, the unsettled [school bus]
transportation study, the unsettled state budget will all impact the final
UCFSD budget.”

Parker said she would hold a Community
Conversation on April 14 at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

“The school district residents are
not responding to the UCFSD Web page or attending the school board meetings,”
she said. “The district has only received eleven email comments regarding the
transportation study. A Community
Meeting may draw a greater audience.”

Parker said a mass mailing to
school district residents is prohibitively expensive and that money is better
spent on delivering education to our pupils.

Outgoing Board Director Dr. Paul
Price commented on the PSERS situation, saying: “Schools have faced rising
pension contributions to replenish the waning state Public School Employees'
Retirement System fund. Next year, the employer rate statewide will increase
from 5.64 percent to 8.65 percent of total payroll. By 2014-15, however, the
projected rate shared by school districts and the state will have increased to
21.18 percent.”

Price also suggested raising
student activity fees to generate “user fee” income. Current budget proposals provide for student activity fees that
only pay for 18 percent of athletic, music and other after school enrichment
program costs.

To see the potential budget reduction list and information regarding the
budget process, please go to http://www.ucfsd.org/2011budget.html

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About Jim Phreaner

After 41 years of auditing large NYSE global corporations, former IRS Agent Jim Phreaner was looking for a project in retirement with fewer regulations and more people. He joined the staff at Chadds Ford Live more than a year ago. James Edward “Jim” Phreaner, 64, died suddenly in his Birmingham Township home on Dec.17, 2012. Jim was a devoted husband, son, father, friend, and neighbor.

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