Teachers furloughed, programs curtailed
By Rob Wheary, Staff Writer
MILLERSBURG – With a million-dollar deficit looming this year, members of the Millersburg Area School Board made the tough decision to pass sweeping cuts in programs in the coming year in order to help make the district financially solvent for the future.
At a special board meeting May 23, the board voted 8-1 for the cuts to programs and reducing the district professional workforce by 15 people.
“Decisions like this are never easy to make,” board president Mark Rothermel said in a statement at the start of the meeting. “These reductions are being done for the long-term viability of the district. To even hold off on these moves for one year could cause irreversible harm to the district and put Millersburg in financial distress.
Many of the moves suggested by the administration were passed by the board, establishing a full day kindergarten to save on transportation costs, setting all elementary grade levels at three sections, and altering the elementary music and physical education classes, middle school guidance and secondary life skills classes.
Eliminated in the cuts were the district’s elementary instructional support team, library, industrial arts and technical education classes in the middle school and family and consumer science classes for grades 6 through 12, along with the district’s social worker.
With the cuts in place, the district is overstaffed and superintendent Thomas Haupt suspected that the district will lose 11 teaching positions, two secretaries, and one administrative position.
Out of the 11 teaching positions lost, three of them will be vacated by retirement, three by non-renewal of temporary professional employees and five will be furloughed.
Before the vote was taken on the matter, board member Morgan Wagner spoke about how they got to this point.
“This crisis is not the result of any kind of mismanagement and we have tried to hold off on this for as long as we can,” Wagner said. “We have heard many people and their suggestions, but we cannot fundraise ourselves out of a $1 million deficit. I just hope that we can all pray for the people impacted by this and hopefully we can take a vote somewhere down the line to restore these cuts and explore more programs for our students.”
Donald Harris was the only dissenting vote on the matter, with Rothermel, Wagner, Bruce Kance, Margaret Lebo, Ryan Novinger, Scott Roadcap, J. Bruce Walter and Brett White voting yes.
Following that vote, the board passed its $14,310,175 spending plan, along with a tax increase of .6076 mills based on the index of 3.2 percent under state law. The increase will put the property tax rate at 19.5974 mills, up from 18.9898 mills. The increase is expected to bring in $191,000 to the district with an average increase to the taxpayer of $51, based on the median property value in Millersburg of $84,950.
The board also approved the homestead/farmstead exclusion for 2016-2017 property taxes. Millersburg will receive a $251,009 allocation from the state, down $35 from last year. It is expected that those approved for the exclusion will receive a reduction in their property taxes of $150.82.
Contracts were approved for the Capital Area Intermediate Unit for special education services, Nutrition Inc. for food service, and Tomlinson Bomberger for maintenance of the athletic fields.
Frank Clark was reappointed as district solicitor for the coming school year, with his pay rate the same as last year, and $8,000 retainer fee and billing for $165 per hour for services beyond what the retainer encompasses, billed at 1/10 of an hour.
In other business:
— On a 6-3 vote, the daily rate for substitute teachers was increased to $100 per day, starting with the 2016-2017 year. The move puts the district in line with surrounding school districts. Voting for the measure was Kance, Lebo, Roadcap, Rothermel, Wagner and Walter, while Harris, Novinger, and White voted no.