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PR School Board Splits 6-3 on Budget That Cuts 6.5 Teaching Positions, Raises Taxes

The new property tax rate is 22.815 mills per thousand dollars of assessed value.

The  voted 6-3 Monday night to adopt a $66.8 million budget that cuts 6.5 teaching positions and raises taxes by 4.138 percent.

Treasurer Dennis Sundo and Directors Ginny Goebel, Peter Lyons, Kevin Nigh, Laura Ohlund and Katie Shogan voted in favor of the budget.

Voting against it were President Stephen Hawbaker, Vice President Jeffrey Banyas and Director Therese Dawson.

Before the final vote, the nine-member board unanimously supported Lyons' amendment to cut one more teaching position—adding a music teacher to the 5.5 physical education teaching cuts already included in the budget.

That brought the propery tax increase percentage down slightly to 4.138 percent, which translates to 22.815 mills per thousand dollars of assessed value.

"I am stuck on the curtailments originally proposed," Hawbaker said as he announced he would vote no on the budget. He was referring to the administration's original budget proposal to cut 15 teaching positions.

Hawbaker also said he preferred a tax increase of 2 to 3 percent.

The 3 percent increase was palatable because it included reserving $477,300 to help pay for the rising costs of the Public School Employees' Retirement System, commonly referred to as PSERS, he said.

"We are at a point where we need a tax increase and the associated cost cuts," Hawbaker said.

Banyas said he supported the amendment to cut another teaching position, but did not support the budget because it did not go far enough in dealing with the sea of red ink facing the district.

Although the tax hike looks like a big jump, Ohlund said, "this is a fiscally conservative board here."

Money has been set aside in the budget to help pay for the rising cost of PSERS and to cover the cost of hiring more teachers if the student-teacher ratio gets too high, she said.

In the times set aside for public comment at the beginning and end of the meeting, Richland resident Annette Robinson told the board that she was part of an underrepresented part of the community.

Unlike many speakers from previous meetings, Robinson said she did not move to the area for the school district. 

She and her husband moved into the district because they found a small house they could afford in a nice neighborhood, but now she fears the rising cost of taxes.

Robinson said she appreciated the plight of teachers and educators and parents with children in Pine-Richland schools.

"I would implore you to make the tough decisions," she told the school board. "I believe you can do the cutting and still remain one of the best school districts."

After months of lengthy discussions on the budget, Monday's vote went quickly.

At the end of the evening, teacher Jill Linz stepped to the podium during the public commenting time to ask the board exactly what the list of cuts were.

Finance and School Services Director Dana Siford explained that 5.5 physical education teaching positions and one music position were cut.

Parent Lisa Gaffey thanked the board for "maintaining the programs you maintained."

Members of TACT—Teachers and Community Together—manned an informational table before the meeting and people wearing TACT buttons were among those filling the meeting room at the school district's administrative office building.

No one publicly addressed the board on behalf of TACT.

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Elizabeth July 02, 2012 at 01:40 PM
totally agree with the union statement
Kelly Burgess July 02, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I'm not sensitive or defensive. I merely have a different opinion and it's positive. My issue is that there are so many blanket, negative statements about the district that are not supported by facts, but by anecdotes and opinion. I still do not think the principal's answer to a complaint about a teacher would be to imply that, yes, he or she is bad, but cannot be fired. I've complained about teachers as well, and that was never implied. Rather, I was assured that the administration was aware of the issue and was taking steps to fix it. It's not the administration's fault that they can't fire teachers. I can't imagine that anything I've ever said could be construed as an "attack." I even said I appreciated the fact that you made clear your statement was opinion. You are entitled to your opinion and I respect it, I just happen to have a different one and I'm expressing it. No school is perfect, but an unrelentingly negative view of PR is not a fair picture either.
Parent of 2012 Grad July 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Thanks, Kelly. My child is excited for college. AP Scores are out today and can be checked off the college list. I appreciate your point of view. However, it will be forums such as these that generate discussion and create more transparency. It is useful for parents to learn that others have had similar experiences, become aware of alternative solutions and/or develop coalitions/collaborations. It can evoke much needed change. We are paying top dollar in a district that, as my child said, “markets well,” yet has significant room for academic improvement and has spent too much time on window dressing. Ask your kids which teachers inspired, required exceptional work, or whom they would grade A+? Shouldn't it be a really long list? I cringe when I think of students who may not have the benefit of (persistent) advocates, run into roadblocks, insufficient funds, etc.; particularly, in a subject such as math which requires foundational learning. It may not be that some "students don't succeed." Like it or not, our 2012 graduates will be competing in a global arena and need to be prepared. Off my soapbox.
Kelly Burgess July 02, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I completely agree with everything you said. My children's list of inspiring teachers is a long one, thank goodness! These forums are useful for generating discussion and I appreciate the different points of view when they are thoughtfully presented, such as yours are, rather than hyperbolic statements that denigrate the district without offering constructive criticism. Our kids are competing in a global arena and my children, so far (the two in the work force), were well-prepared for that. I would like the students of PR to all have similarly successful outcomes, and if that requires change, then let's encourage those changes in a targeted, respectful manner. In my opinion, too many posters are entirely negative. I like to balance that with a few positives. I'm not an apologist, merely a realist. And thanks for the heads up on the AP scores, I did not realize they were out today.
Richard July 03, 2012 at 11:47 AM
I think that we all agree that there are a few people in all professions that should not have a job, and education is the same way. It does take some work for principals to get rid of teachers but it is not that difficult, just time consuming. The principals at the high school have released 2 teachers in the past 3 years that were inadequate at their jobs, so it is being done. Not sure if everyone knows it because they are not "fired". The teachers are simply told to resign or they will be fired. This site does a great job of getting people more informed. I am sure that there will be a lot more discussion as the contract struggles continue. Hopefully the teachers will be patient and willing to work without a contract at the beginning of the year. The school is not in a good financial place right now and hopefully the teachers will understand that. It isn't the teachers fault, they pay into their retirement at 7% and make 10K less than NA teachers at the top and are near equal to Deer Lakes teachers. Regardless, the union and school board need to work out a 3-4 year contract with I would say a pay freeze in the first year and a slight raise the next 2-3 with increased health care payments. Right now they pay more than most school districts teachers, but it still needs to be more. Overall, I believe that students at PR are ready for college and that overall the teachers do a very good job in preparing our students for college. We should support our schools!

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