HERMITAGE School board OKs revised budget plan

The school board is also taking more than $600,000 from its savings to balance the plan.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Residents of the Hermitage School District will see their property taxes increase by 1.5 mills next year instead of 2.5 mills as proposed in a tentative budget last month.
The school board voted 7-1, with school director Sarah Jazwinski absent, to approve a revised spending plan of $19,844,230 for 2001-2002.
That's up about $900,000 over this year with most of the increase coming in teacher salaries, natural gas costs and debt service.
School director James Lumpp said the 1.5-mill increase is needed to repay $5 million borrowed in January, through a bond issue, to help pay for the $24 million renovation and expansion of Hickory High School.
School officials have also said Hermitage will have to raise property taxes 3 mills over the next two years to complete the financing on that loan.
One mill of tax costs the average residential taxpayer about $5 a year, school officials have said.
One mill generates $74,000, and the new millage rate stands at 129.75.
The board is also taking more than $600,000 from its unreserved fund balance to finance the new budget.
Dissension: School director Gene Martuccio cast the dissenting vote, saying he and administrators had pushed for the addition of a second instructional support teacher at the high school level for next year but the majority of the board cut it out of the spending plan.
If they could cut that out, they could find other cuts to eliminate the need for any tax increase next year, Martuccio said after the meeting.
There are no staff cuts in the new budget. The spending plan makes a half-time teacher and half-time school psychologist full time, Superintendent Dr. Louis C. Mastrian said.
In other business, the board:
UHired Paula Bittler of Hermitage as the new secondary guidance counselor, replacing Eric Trosch, who was recently named high school principal. Bittler will start at $37,394 annually.
UVoted to extend the contract with the district's teachers while negotiations are under way on a new pact. The old agreement was to expire June 30. The teachers have agreed to the extension, which will remain in place until a new contract is reached or the teachers union decides it won't work under the extension. Tim Ruffo, chief negotiator for the school board, said talks are going well.

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