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Keystone Oaks Announces Cuts In Response To Gov.'s Budget Proposal

Superintendent William Urbanek said every program, building and classroom will be evaluated to bridge the budget gap.

would cut two mental health specialists, a reading and math coach and several programs if Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal is approved, according to the district.

"We are looking at every program, every classroom, and every building to see what we can afford to keep and what has to go to make up the deficit," Superintendent William Urbanek said in a news release Friday.

The district is facing a $1.3 million loss in basic education funding under the proposed budget.

The school board has also asked the teacher’s union to consider a one-year wage freeze, which the governor has also called for.

“… As a result of the sweeping cuts to educational funding proposed by Gov. Corbett as well as the district's commitment to maintain its current five building configuration Keystone Oaks will be forced to make significant cuts,” Urbanek said.

Programs to be cut include those funded by the Accountability Block Grant and  Education Assistance Program: the after school remedial reading program at Aiken Elementary, the district's cyber school program, the after school tutoring programs at the middle school and high school and the district's drug free schools initiative.

Two counselors — one for the three elementary schools and one for the middle and high school — along with the elementary reading coach and high school math coach.

Urbanek said the district will have to make up a $441,000 cut to its basic subsidy — money that would have been used for current teacher salaries and benefits.

Additionally, the district won't replace the 20 teachers who are set to retire this year — the largest class of retiring teachers in more than 15 years.

By not refilling those positions, the district may save about $2 million, Gwen Walker, director of fiscal services, said earlier this year.

Extra incentives and a retirement package was offered by the district to attract a larger class of retirees.

Administrators have described the incentives as “enormous,” haven't released details.

By not replacing all of the teachers, class sizes may double, said board member Marian Randazzo.

“We knew these challenges were coming,” Randazzo said. “We missed an opportunity to do the right things at the right time to not impact our teachers and community.”

Board members voted 6-3 in November to not move forward with a proposed consolidation plan that would close one or two of the district’s elementary schools.

“The opportunity has since passed. We just have to move forward,” said Randazzo, who was board president at the time of the controversial vote.

“Budget challenges were difficult then. We have to find a way to do more with even less now,” she said.

Applying for an exemption and raising taxes above the Act I Index — the barometer used by the state to determine the maximum property tax increase a district can issue — isn't an option, said Gwen Walker, director of fiscal services.

The board voted in January not to raise taxes above the index, and directors can’t renege on their decision unless state law changes, according to Solicitor Ira Weiss.

Keystone Oaks can only raise taxes by 1.7 percent, which will generate just $359,000, Walker said.

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