The loan will be for three years at 85 percent of the prime interest rate.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
TRANSFER, Pa. -- A three-year financial recovery plan for the Reynolds School District drew mixed reaction from area residents.
The plan relies on a $1.5 million loan to pay off the district's short-term debt and a phased-in series of three annual tax increases.
School directors unanimously approved the loan Tuesday evening and passed by a 7-1 vote a final budget of $14,613,798 for fiscal 2002-03, which increases property taxes from 43 to 47 mills. School director Barry Nelson dissented and director Jeffrey Colson was absent. Tax increases of 4 mills next year and 5 mills the following year are proposed, but the board did not act on them Tuesday.
Nelson said he dissented because he thought spending cuts could have been made with less impact on classroom instruction, the tax increase was higher than necessary and a five-year financial recovery period would have been desirable "to soften the impact."
Residents had mixed views.
Kathy Lowers of Pymatuning Township said she's skeptical of the compromise. "That's just putting off the big tax increase. Next year, they can raise it to whatever limits they want to raise it."
However, Dale Haws of Delaware Township said the proposed solution seems reasonable. "They have to get out [of the financial predicament] somehow. We've got to move some way. That sounds right now the proper way," rather than having one immediate large tax increase. "When you're heavy on top, you've got to cut," he said, calling for administrative overhead to be the starting point for cutbacks.
"If we have a debt and we have to pay it and we want services, we have to buy it," Bill Miller of Pymatuning Township said of the recovery plan. "If there've been mistakes made, we're going to have to correct the mistakes, and we're going to have to pay for what we have," he added. "You're better off taking it a little bit at a time, and we'll work our way out of that. I feel that's fair," he said.
President Judge Francis J. Fornelli of Mercer County Common Pleas Court approved the $1.5 million, three-year loan from First National Bank in Hermitage at 85 percent of the prime interest rate Tuesday morning. The loan rate is 4.038 percent and will be adjusted annually.
"I do not want there to be a huge tax increase, but I'm not satisfied with the decision because I feel that our school district is receiving quite a bit of funding, and they still haven't made adequate cuts in other areas where necessary, such as administration," said Leesa Caputo, president of the Reynolds Education Association, the union representing 111 teachers and other professional employees. She lamented that the plan will result in union members being laid off this summer.
School Superintendent Anthony Trosan said he thinks the board will lay off about 12 members of that union later this month. Cuts are also being made in supplies, number of athletic coaches, and administrative costs, he said.
The board laid off Brian S. Bronson, one of two principals in the elementary school, effective July 31, leaving Barbara Clawson as the remaining principal there with part-time help from other administrators.
Although the judge had to approve the borrowing, the judge did not have to approve the millage because the plan doesn't call for more than a 10-percent tax increase this year.