LEWISTOWN - The 2014-15 budgeting process now will begin in earnest for the Mifflin County School District following Thursday's passage of a preliminary spending plan that was first presented to the Mifflin County School Board last week.
Without any discussion, the board approved a preliminary budget in the amount of $69.6 million, which allows for a tax increase of no more than 2.5 mills, when calculated exceptions are included.
"The Act 1 index allows the Mifflin County School District three percent, or roughly one mill (of tax) with calculated exceptions. We believe we can go to 2.5 mills, which is what is built into the budget at this time," Chief Financial Officer Sean Daubert explained prior to the Jan. 16 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
Superintendent James Estep added, "When the community sees the potential of a tax increase, it doesn't mean it will actually turn out that way. Some expenses might change in size and scope. If that happens, we hope it doesn't change in the wrong direction and we don't need the 2 and a half mills. Our goal administratively is not to go to that."
Daubert said the major expense drivers in the new budget include the district's contribution to the state retirement system. "Those rates are going from 16.9 percent to 21.4 percent, which equates to a $1.1 million additional expense to the budget," Daubert explained. Daubert said another expense built in includes payments for the renovation projects currently going on at Indian Valley Elementary School and Mifflin County Junior High School. "The state has not yet sent through our reimbursement for those projects, so until it does we will build those expenses into the budget," Daubert said. "Hopefully, we'll get paid back for those."
The increase in healthcare benefits will also be significant, Daubert noted. "Our first estimate for health insurance renewal is a 17 percent increase," he said. "That's about a $1.5 million increase to the budget."
On the revenue side, Daubert said he did not include any increases from the state because the governor is still in the process of formulating his proposed state budget.
In other business Thursday, the board approved the sale of the former Strodes Mills Middle School and the property it sits on to the McVeytown Community Local Mission Service Foundation, for $91,002. An adjacent tract of land, measuring 2.7 acres, went to the high bidder, Centre Union Church, which is located on Caldwell Hill Road, Lewistown.
William Capouillez, president of the Mission Service Foundation, said his organization plans to convert the school building to a community center for athletics, mission work and outreach for youth.
In other business, following two months of discussion, the board voted to add renovating six bathrooms to the ongoing project at the Indian Valley Elementary School at a cost not to exceed $198,000. Estep said the project's contingency fund currently sits at "well over $400,000," so the cost of adding the restroom renovations could be added in the form of a change order.
"We thought it would be best to update the 1959 original bathrooms," Estep said. "Those were left out (of the original project) to reduce the total number of dollars being spent. If we do this, we've done a complete scope project for that building. My recommendation is to update them now because it probably won't be done for another 50 years."
In other business, the board unanimously approved naming Steven Schaaf as the director of elementary education effective Jan. 2. In addition to the appointment, the board also approved a revised job description for the position. Schaaf took a seat at the board table following the vote, after which Board President Mary Lou Signer commented, "I would like to thank Mr. Schaaf for taking on these additional responsibilities at no extra salary."
In other business Thursday, the board:
Approved changing the multiplier (course weighting) for honors classes to 1.04 percent and advanced placement classes and dual enrollment courses to 1.08 percent effective for the 2014-15 school year. During last week's committee-of-the-whole meeting, Mifflin County High School Principal Mark Crosson recommended the weighting change as a way to get Mifflin County's students on a more level playing field when competing for college admission and scholarships with schools of comparable size in the region.
Approved categorizing the anatomy and physiology course as an honors course effective the 2014-15 school year.
Approved adding four teachers in response to state mandated remedial classes that must be offered to students who do not pass the state's Keystone Exams. The teachers will include one biology teacher at the high school, one biology teacher to be shared between the high school and the district's Alpha Program, one math teacher at the high school and one English teacher at the high school. Half the salaries of three of the teachers would be integrated into the Keystones of Opportunity Grant, which the district is in the second year of a five-year allocation.
Approved the creation of planned course curriculum in Algebra I Keystone Remediation, Literature Keystone Remediation and Biology Keystone Remediation.
Approved creating a planned course and curriculum for an Environmental Science course to be offered at the high school for next school year.
Approved the creation of a planned course and curriculum for a Career Mathematics course to be offered at the high school next year.
Hired Tracy Bastress as lead custodian at Mifflin County Middle School.
Hired Timothy Haigh as a part-time custodian.
Approved Holli Barger as the district's first-alternate delegate to the Mifflin County Tax Collection Committee.
Approved the resignation of Tracy Bastress as a part-time cafeteria worker at the Career and Technology Center to take a full-time custodial position.
Approved the hiring of Heather Kohler for a part-time cafeteria worker position at the Career and Technology Center effective Jan. 21.
Approved Pauline Belfiore as a van driver for Fisher Brothers Inc.
Hired Sierra Chesney as a temporary second grade teacher at East Derry Elementary School effective Jan. 6, for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year or less.
Hired Emily Walker as an elementary computer teacher, districtwide, with the home base of Indian Valley Elementary School, effective Jan. 27.
Named Nicole McClure as elementary online learning facilitator, districtwide, effective Jan. 27.
Named Stephanie Moon as technology integration coach, districtwide, effective Jan. 27.
Approved the following to serve as teacher mentors for the second semester of the current school year: Holly Seby, Dixie Goss and Rebecca Reeder.
Approved the following retirements effective at the end of the current school year: James Bailey, reading teacher at the middle school; Randy Loht, math teacher at the high school; Karen Korona, third grade teacher at Indian Valley Elementary School; and Valarie DeVecchis, guidance counselor at the high school.
Accepted the retirement of E. Terry Styers, principal of East Derry and Strodes Mills Elementary Schools, effective June 30.
Deleted Laura Litwiller, William Logan and Jessica Butler from the substitute teacher list.
Added Lindsay Foltz, Jenna Peachey and Amy Ruschaupt to the substitute teacher list.
Approved Angela Rowles to temporarily assume responsibility for the substitute answering service effective Jan. 30.
Hired Chelsea Zook as assistant junior high field hockey coach for the 2014 season.
Approved David Stuck and Craig Bubb as volunteer softball coaches.
Approved Aaron Bubb as a volunteer baseball coach for the 2014 spring season.