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Finance Committee Urges Staffing Cuts Over Taxes to Close Budget Gap

Members of the committee gave clear indication to Centennial Business Administrator Chris Berdnik that they preferred teacher cuts over activating Act 1 exceptions that would allow an additional tax increase.

After factoring in revenue from the sale of the Dot Henry Satellite school to Ivyland Borough and the reduction of eight staff positions - four from the high school, eight from the elementary school consolidation - Centennial Business Administrator Chris Berdnik told the Centennial Finance Committee Tuesday night that the 2012-2013 projected budget deficit was now down to approximately $2.3 million.

The new projections did not include any additional revenue from Act 1 exemptions that would allow the district to raise taxes an additional 2.37 mills on top of the already projected 1.7 percent increase. A mill equals a dollar tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Berdnik presented a few scenarios that would balance next year's budget. The first incorporated the Act 1 exemptions and $500,000 in other expense cuts. Another replaced the exemptions with the projected the loss of 21 additional teaching positions, primarily from the switch of the middle schools to the junior high model, plus the $500,000 in other cuts. A third scenario was a mix, adding one exemption to nine cut positions, along with the $500,000 expense cut.

As far as the members of the Centennial Finance Committee are concerned, that additional tax exemption revenue should stay removed from the projections, and the rest of the gap should be closed by expense reductions, primarily teacher cuts.

Finance Committee Chairman Michael Hartline took the request even further when he closed out the meeting with a prepared statement that called on the district to make aggressive cuts to all staffing levels.

"I am not proposing a one-year short term solution or Band-Aid to this problem," Hartline said, "but instead what I hope will be a multi-year plan that will provide a 'fix' in the interim and allow for economic conditions to recover."

Hartline said he wants to see the economic misery spread evenly throughout the district, starting with the elimination off 55 professional staffing positions, achieved through the following:

  • Continuing consolidation of the elementary schools with no change in class sizes until economic conditions improve.
  • Changing of the middle school curriculum as brought forth by the administration.
  • Elimination of all underutilized high school classes that are not mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Hartline also suggests eliminating 10-15 support staff positions throughout the district and studying the feasibility of reorganizing the principal/vice principal model into a more economical model.

Centennial's future financial obligations prompted Hartline to propose what he admits are seemingly Draconian cuts. He highlights in his statement that the district will have to pay an additional $1.6 million in contractual salary increases and increase its state-mandated contributions to the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) by $2.5 million, with even greater increases in 2014 and 2015.

"The administration welcomes any input, suggestions or comments from the Centennial Education Association on ways that we can, as a united organization, contain costs while striving to provide the best education for our students at the minimum expense to an economically struggline community," Hartline said, closing out his remarks.

Tired of Hypocrisy February 22, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Build more schools but dismiss the bodies needed to teach in said schools. Centennial is amazing with their supposed 'long range planning' with the exception of their short-sighted goals. They cannot see past the nose on their face. Centennial seems to know how to put their hands in taxpayers pockets for their 'overcost runs' and then to deny students proper education with teacher cuts.
Steve A February 23, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Thank you Mr. Hartline. Finally, someone looking out for the taxpayers. Just like in the real world, hard decisions have to me made and it only gets worse when the over the top pensions have to be funded in the coming years. If the teachers and administrators really cared about the children, they would allow the Board to lower the pensions.
Get It Right February 23, 2012 at 01:08 PM
The Board can't lower the pensions - this is a state level issue. If you did your homework, you would know that the problem facing districts now is the result of not paying into the pensions in the 80s because the state said they didn't have to.
Michelle Hazlett February 23, 2012 at 01:30 PM
This Board is such a joke!!!! It is their fault that the school is in this financial situation and they are going to make the kids pay for it!! If the board really cared about these kids they would not have gotten into this mess in the first place. Mr. Hartline says for people to come out and give suggestions, input and comments...why bother "YOU DON'T LISTEN TO ANYONE"!!!!! Here is a suggestion, stop making stupid decisions!!!!!
Steve G February 23, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Last year when the vast majority of taxpayers were against giving teachers a raise, the board did not want to hear this. Everyone at the meeting knew that this year they would not be able to fund the raises. Why can the average citizen/taxpayer see the reality and the ill qualified elected members of the School Board be blind to reality. Many community members who spoke predicted large teacher reductions to pay for these raises. There is a projected deficit of 2.3 million dollars next year. Of that 2.3 million, 1.6 million is related to teacher pay increases. I propose that the taxpayers of the Centennial School District start a massive Recall of the entire School Board. Honestly, I would have more confidence in the board if Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were members as opposed the current bunch that we are stuck with.

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