SHARPSVILLE SCHOOLS Most of boost in state subsidy to go to district's debt service

The school board members disagreed on how the rest of the money should be spent.
SHARPSVILLE, Pa. -- A couple of taxpayers said the Sharpsville Area School Board should use a boost in state subsidy to roll back a property tax increase enacted in June, but they were disappointed.
Sharpsville, like most public schools in Pennsylvania, got a windfall from the state legislature, which didn't pass a final version of the state budget until July 6, nearly a week after school districts were required to have their budgets in place.
The final version of the state budget included some subsidy increases, and the legislature said that to get it, school districts have to reopen their 2002-03 budgets, which took effect July 1, and spend the money on debt service, a tax cut or restoration of programs cut from their budgets.
Sharpsville is getting an additional $186,400, the equivalent of 3 mills of tax revenue, and the board met Monday to decide how to spend it.
"The most important thing is giving the taxpayers a break," said James Gibbons of Oak Street. The board should roll back the 1-mill tax increase in the new budget at a cost of $60,000 and put the rest of the money toward reducing debt service, he said.
Gerard Hanley, also of Oak Street, agreed.
"That will show the taxpayers you really care," he told the board.
Board members discussed a variety of scenarios, and though everyone agreed most of the money should go to debt service, there was disagreement about what else should be done.
Directors Charles Rice and Chris Ruffo pushed for eliminating the 1-mill tax increase, and Director Donna Murray suggested using $5,000 to restore a budget line item for new band instruments.
President Terry Karsonovich suggested all of the money go to debt service, and Director Robert Timmerman agreed.
Putting the money aside for debt service will benefit taxpayers in the long run by reducing interest payments on long-term debt, said Jaime Roberts, district business manager.
Tutoring program
Director Susan Pokorney, looking at a list of items cut from the budget, suggested that a computerized math tutoring program with an $8,000 price was worthy of some of the additional state money. The rest should go for debt service, she said.
Directors Kimberly Barringer, David DeForest and Joyce Grandy agreed, and Timmerman said he could support that plan with the provision that, should the tutoring program exceed $8,000, it would have to come back to the board for approval again.
In the end, the board voted 6-3 to approve Pokorney's plan, with Murray, Rice and Ruffo opposed.

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