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Schools positioned to add personnel

Members of the Westmoreland County School Board and Board of Supervisors are gathered in joint session as this edition of The Journal goes to press. The objective is to complete work begun in the joint session of June 13, when the two boards struggled to reach agreement on issues associated with the adopted 2011-2012 budget.

The Westmoreland School Board and its community of support wanted to fund additional administrative and instructional positions. The supervisors continued to maintain a firm position that local taxes should not be raised during a recessionary period.

On June 13 School Board Chairman Daniel Wallace suggested the division would end its current fiscal period on June 30 with as little as $400,000 in unexpended revenue. The School Board has identified a need to add approximately $500,000 to the budget that will govern the 12-month interval that begins on July 1.

Unexpended revenues at the end of a budget period are refereed to as the fund balance. In Westmoreland County a past year’s fund balance has customarily been used by local government and the county’s school division as a cushion

that offsets the revenue-poor portions of the fiscal period. The school division must expend its local revenue before it receives money from many of its state and federal streams.

The adopted 2011-2012 budget utilizes $248,944 of the school division’s anticipated fund balance to fund its personnel requirements, but the adopted budget fails to fund as many as nine positions that the School Board and its community of support deem essential.

When Daniel Wallace advised the supervisors on June 13 that the division would carry forward as little as $400,000 when the current budget period ends on June 30, the already obligated $248,944 would create a balance as low as $150,000. Additional revenue would subsequently be needed from the county government’s general fund if essential staff positions were to in fact be filled.

When matters still were unresolved on June 13, some members of the school division’s community of support called upon the supervisors to revisit the 2011-2012 budget and tax rates. Higher taxes were the suggested remedy.
County Administrator Norm Risavi remained firm in his conviction that the school division would end its current budget period with a fund balance of approximately $800,000. The projection was based in part on precedent. If the school division adhered to the expenditures pattern established in prior years during the final month of the fiscal period and if past patterns of incoming state and federal revenues were essentially the same, the fund balance would support restoration of the nine identified administrative and instructional positions.

By the afternoon of June 20, Risavi was confident that his fund balance projection was adequately validated by the numbers on the books. He released a spreadsheet summary that projected a school division fund balance as great as $890,119.09. When the $248,944 already included in the division’s 2011-2012 budget was subtracted, the available fund balance was $641,175.09. The numbers projection had been crunched all the way down to the very last cent of available revenue.

The School Board made it known during their own June 20 meeting that they want to add no less than $483,908.76 to the division’s 2011-2012 adopted budget. The additional revenue would fund a middle school assistant principal, a high school ISS (in school suspension) coordinator, a middle school ISS coordinator, a middle school family and consumer science teacher, a Cople Elementary assistant principal, a Washington District Elementary principal, a technology coordinator, a transportation supervisor and an instructional assistant.

According to this Monday’s discussion, a second pre-kindergarten class can be added at Cople Elementary for approximately $80,000. The Westmoreland School Board also expressed a desire to have a pre-kindergarten offering at the Washington District school, where a head start program is currently in place. Portions of the suggested pre-kindergarten programs would be funded with non-local funds.

Aware of fund balance projections, the School Board members and the division’s support community refrained during this Monday’s meeting from blaming the fiscally conservative Westmoreland supervisors for the school division’s financial challenges. During the June 20 session Chairman Wallace made it known that he had reviewed the latest set of fund balance projections and was satisfied that the funding would be available. The positions will be filled as soon as the funding becomes available, ensuring the division’s ability to engage qualified candidates.

Betsy Ficklin

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