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Budget Outlook for State College Schools Begins to Emerge

on September 27, 2011 9:22 AM

Another tight budget year may await the State College-area public schools in 2012-13.

Speaking Monday before the State College school board, Business Administrator Jeffrey Ammerman said the district's standard, state-imposed tax-increase cap in 2012-13 will be 1.7 percent.

If the board seeks special exceptions to help fund retirement obligations and special education, Ammerman said, it would likely be able to boost that cap to 3.3 percent. A tax increase at that level would yield the district nearly $2.5 million in new revenue, he said.

Any proposed increase higher than that would need to go before voters as a referendum item.

With all that as a backdrop, Ammerman said the district administration will, within a couple months, begin to project whether the State College schools will face a budget gap for 2012-13.

Likewise, he said, the administration will be looking deeply at district operations, past cost-containment measures and budget-control practices in other districts.

The State College district trimmed more than $2 million from its expense sheet for 2011-12, the second year of budget-balancing cuts. Reductions for the current year included the elimination of more than 30 positions district-wide through a combination of attrition, layoffs and demotions.

The annual budget for the State College schools is close to $111 million annually. A district property-tax increase of 2.65 percent went into effect this year.

Also Monday, district Superintendent Robert O'Donnell introduced an administration-reorganization proposal. The board has anticipated some level of administrative reorganization even before O'Donnell's appointment in June, as the district adjusts to several attritional cuts and angles for ongoing curriculum development.

"Our district is in need of a more coherent leadership structure with the purpose of ... ensuring (that) staff members have the tools and training to successfully implement updated" curricula, O'Donnell said.

Under his proposal, the position of district-wide director of education -- now vacant -- would be restructured to become the assistant to the superintendent for K-8 education. Also, the position of assistant superintendent would be restructured to focus on the high-school level and several K-12 programs and services.

O'Donnell said the changes would strengthen oversight, accountability, curricular development and support, and staff development. He said the plan could be paid for with attritional savings achieved through other administrative changes.

The board is expected to discuss the proposal in more detail at its Oct. 10 meeting. Board members will take public comment and may vote on the plan that evening, as well. (Board meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. in the district administration building, 131 W. Nittany Ave., State College.)

In other school matters, the district will host public open-house events Saturday at the new Mount Nittany Elementary School, 700 Brandywine Drive, Boalsburg, and at the overhauled Ferguson Township Elementary School, 215 W. Main St., Pine Grove Mills.

The Ferguson Township event is scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m.; the Mount Nittany event, from 10 a.m. to noon. Programs at both schools will open with brief remarks, followed by tours led by fifth-grade students, district spokeswoman Julie Miller said.

Light refreshments will be available, she said.

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