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PR School Board Votes on Budget, Tax Rate Tonight

The school board meets at 7:30 p.m. at the school district's administrative offices at 702 Warrendale Road in Gibsonia.

After months of debate, the Pine-Richland School Board votes tonight (Monday) to adopt a budget for the 2012-13 school year and set a tax rate. 

No matter what the nine directors do, someone will be uphappy.

In preceding meetings, the board's directors have heard Pine-Richland residents tell them to raise taxes, hold the line on taxes, cut programs and teachers, and not to make cuts.

It's all been discussed and debated, and tonight is the final showdown.

The key number tonight is five.

That's how many votes it will take to pass the 2012-13 budget, no matter how many directors attend the meeting.

If only seven attend, a simple majority of four votes will not do the trick.

Pine-Richland Patch has been reporting on the PR school district's budget for months. 

Instead of trying to summarize all the complexities of what has happened to date, we decided simply to rerun the stories below, with the most recent story first.

Tonight's meeting is open to the public, with opportunities for public comment at the beginning and end of the meeting. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at

 

PR School Board Director Lyons Recommends Cutting Two More Teacher Positions

The school board votes June 25 on its 2012-13 budget.

  • Published June 15, 2012

Will two more teacher positions be cut from the Pine-Richland schools budget?

That is what Pine-Richland School Board Director Peter Lyons proposed Thursday night at the board's finance committee meeting. 

Specifically, he suggests amending the proposed $66.8 million budget to cut two high school positions, for a $148,597 savings:

  • a music teacher position by eliminating the beginner piano and music theory classes; 
  • a teacher in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department by cutting the child development class.

Lyons also proposes a 3.95 percent increase in the millage rate to 22.7734 mills per thousand dollars of assessed value. 

That is a decrease from the 4.308 percent increase included in the proposed budget that the school board passed 5-4 in May.

The Final Budget Vote

The nine-member school board votes June 25 to adopt the budget at its 7:30 p.m. meeting at the district's administration building at 702 Warrendale Road in Gibsonia.

It could be a long night—at least five members must agree to the budget. If only seven members are present, a simply majority of four votes will not work.

"Compromise" is the key word, said Treasurer Dennis Sundo, because the school board must come out with a budget on June 25.

Votes Leading Up To This Point

The Pine-Richland School Board voted 5-4 in late May to adopt a $66.8 million proposed final 2012-13 budget that eliminates 5.5 physical education teaching positions.

More teacher cuts had been proposed, but the board restored the $480,752 in cuts that would have affected 9.5 teaching positions in music, art, family consumer science, and elementary/advanced language arts instruction.

Sundo recommended the restoration, along with a 4.308 percent increase in the millage rate to pay for it.

Voting in favor of the budget were Sundo, Katie Shogan, Laura Ohlund, Virginia Goebel, and Kevin Nigh.

Voting against were President Stephen Hawbaker, Vice President Jeffrey Banyas, Peter Lyons and Therese Dawson. 

Less than a week prior to the 5-4 vote, the board's finance committee recommended a budget that called for a 3.2 percent tax increase and cuts that included 15 teaching positions.

Lyons' Argument for the Amendment

When Lyons advanced the proposal to cut two more teaching positions, he referred to the district's long-range budget forecast that shows expenses outpacing revenue.

The nearly $149,000 in savings might not seem like much, Lyons said, but it adds up year after year. 

"We will have saved, not expended," he said, and curtailing spending now puts the district in a better position in the future.

He also noted that the cost of a teaching position includes health care and retirement costs, which are increasing at a much faster rate than other budget expenses. 

As prudent managers during a fiscal crisis, the board needs to address revenues and costs, Lyons said.

The 'Big Picture'

Director Therese Dawson said the school district cannot continuing doing things the way it always has.

"We need to look at these difficult times as opportunities," she said. "I think we're missing opportunities by staying stuck with the old way of doing things."

Dawson said she was "completely fine" with Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci's original budget proposal, which called for cutting 15 teaching positions.

As a director, Dawson said, it is her job to look at the big picture.

"Fortunately or unfortunately, that is what I signed up for."

 

It Ain't Over 'til It's Over—That's The Way of the PR Schools Budget

The school board finance committee meets Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.

  • Published June 14, 2012

It ain't over 'til it's over.

Baseball great Yogi Berra must have been watching the budget process for Pine-Richland schools when he said that.

Until the nine-member school board votes to adopt the budget and set a millage rate on June 25, anything can happen.

The school board's finance committee meets at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) to take up where it left off at Monday's full school board meeting. During budget discussions, the entire board usually attends finance committee meetings.

Director Peter Lyons on Monday asked Treasurer Dennis Sundo about the reasoning for a May 21 change in direction for the budget. 

The Pine-Richland School Board voted 5-4 on May 21 to adopt a $66.8 million proposed final 2012-13 budget that preserves 9.5 teaching positions in music and other areas as well as tentatively setting a 4.308 percent tax increase.

That would bring the millage rate to 22.8522. 

It maintained the elimination of 5.5 physical education teaching positions to make the budget balance. 

Less than a week prior, the board's finance committee recommended a budget that called for a 3.2 percent tax increase and cuts that included 15 teaching positions.

At the May 21 meeting, Sundo, who chairs the finance committee, recommended restoring the $480,752 in cuts that affect music, art, family consumer science, and elementary/advanced language arts instruction.

Voting in favor of the budget were Sundo, Katie Shogan, Laura Ohlund, Virginia Goebel, and Kevin Nigh.

Voting against were President Stephen Hawbaker, Vice President Jeffrey Banyas, Peter Lyons and Therese Dawson. 

That marathon meeting ended at 12:35 a.m. with the school board voting for a budget that has expenditures of $66,849,169 and total revenues of $66,376,549 and a fund balance utilization of $472,619.

In asking about the restorations, Lyons inquired whether something about financial projections looked rosier than when the budget process began.

Sundo said he knows the district will face a budget gap next year, but raising taxes to the 4.3 percent level allows the board to restore some of the proposed cuts this year, said Sundo, who described it as a "one-year stay."

As programs are dropped, Sundo continued, "our property values drop."

Lyons said he agreed with some of the restorations, like fourth-grade music.

"But when you look at family and consumer science (classes), I don't feel it's core to the district," said Lyons, who also questioned restoring beginner piano and music theory classes at the high school.

"It's opinion what you think is core," Sundo said.

The cuts "detract from the value of this district," according to Sundo.

"I appreciate it's a balancing act," Lyons said.

As for taxes, he said, a competitive tax rate also preserves property values.

 

What Does a 4.308 Percent Property Tax Increase Mean To You?

The Pine-Richland School Board passed a proposed budget that calls for a 4.308 percent property tax increase. What will that mean to your tax bill?

  • Published May 23, 2012

Get out your calculator.

It's time to figure out how much your property taxes will be if the Pine-Richland School Board adopts a $66.8 million budget that calls for a 4.308 percent increase in the tax rate.

Adopting a budget and setting a millage rate for the 2012-13 school year is not a done deal.

It is a multi-step process and 

Now the budget is available for public review and comments. 

Final adoption of the budget is set for June 25. That is when a millage rate will be adopted also.

Currently, the millage rate is 21.9084 mills per thousand dollars of a home's assessed value; the proposed rate is 22.8522.

If you have a home assessed at $100,000, your tax bill will go up from $2,190.84 to $2,285.22. That's a $94.38 increase.

But houses in Pine and Richland townships tend to cost more than that.

In Richland Township, the median property value is $122,800, according to the community profile on the Allegheny County website.

Using that number, a homeowner's tax bill would rise from $2,690.35 to $2,806.25, an increase of $115.90.

For Pine Township, the median value is $229,000, according to Pine's community profile. A homeowner's tax bill would change from $5,017.02 to $5,233.15, an increase of $216.13.

But wait, there's more.

To truly understand what your real estate tax bill will be, a homeowner must consider all the costs.

Allegheny County assesses a 5.6900 mill rate, an increase of 1.00 over last year. On top of that, Pine Township assesses 1.2 mills and Richland charges 2.75 mills.

Richland Township

Taxes for a property valued at the median $122,800 are as follows for 2012:

County Tax (5.69 mills) = $698.73

Richland Tax (2.75 mills) = $337.70 

Proposed Pine-Richland School District Tax (22.8522 mills) = $2,806.25

TOTAL = $3,842.68

That total compares to $3,603.98 in 2011, an increase of $238.70. The higher number includes the county's increased millage rate and the proposed school district increase.

Pine Township

Taxes for a property valued at the median $229,000 are as follows for 2012:

County Tax (5.69 mills) = $1,303.01

Pine Tax (1.2 mills) = $274.80

Proposed Pine-Richland School District Tax (22.8522 mills) = $5,233.15

TOTAL = $6,810.96

That total compares to $6,365.83 in 2011, an increase of $445.13. The higher number includes the county's increased millage rate and the proposed school district increase.

 

 

PR School Board Votes 5-4 to Restore Music and Other Programs to Proposed Budget

A 4.308 percent tax increase will be needed to balance the proposed 2012-13 budget. The physical education program loses 5.5 teaching positions under this plan.

  • Published May 22, 2012

Applause filled the room Monday around midnight when the Pine-Richland School Board voted 5-4 to adopt a $66.8 million proposed final 2012-13 budget that preserves 9.5 teaching positions in music and other areas.

However, it will take a 4.308 percent tax increase and the elimination of 5.5 physical education teaching positions to make the budget balance.

The proposed budget will now be available for public review—the final vote for adoption of a budget and the setting of the millage rate is June 25.

About 200-plus people filled Pine-Richland High School's auditorium Monday night to urge the board not to cut programs in music, art, family consumer science, elementary/advanced language arts, and physical education.

Speakers included 12-year-old singing star Jackie Evancho and her father, Mike Evancho, who stressed the importance of physical education, music and the arts.

Another local celebrity who addressed the board was NewsRadio 1020 KDKA's Larry Richert of Pine Township. He urged the board not to cut the physical education program, as he referred to aNewsweek article about obesity in children.

Less than a week ago, the board's finance committee recommended a budget that called for a 3.2 percent tax increase and cuts that included 15 teaching positions.

Treasurer Dennis Sundo, who chairs the finance committee, recommended restoring the $480,752 in cuts that affect music, art, family consumer science, and elementary/advanced language arts instruction.

Voting in favor of the budget were Sundo, Katie Shogan, Laura Ohlund, Virginia Goebel, and Kevin Nigh.

Voting against were President Stephen Hawbaker, Vice President Jeffrey Banyas, Peter Lyons and Therese Dawson. 

In a marathon meeting that ended at 12:35 a.m., the school board voted for a budget that has expenditures of $66,849,169 and total revenues of $66,376,549 and a fund balance utilization of $472,619.

The proposed 4.308 percent tax increase would bring the millage rate to 22.8522. 

"Pine-Richland School District is trying to find a way to reduce expenditures with the least impact to students," Communications Director Rachel Hathhorn wrote in a statement released at the end of the meeting.

"Pine-Richland is experiencing what many districts have been experiencing nationwide for several years. While we’ve trimmed our budget over the past few years, we’ve been fortunate not to have to cut teaching positions up to this point," Hathhorn continued. "We will continue providing a strong academic program for our students."

 

Pine-Richland School Board to Vote on Proposed Final Budget Tonight

Meeting has been moved to Pine-Richland High School auditorium.

  • Published May 21, 2012

The Pine-Richland School Board meets tonight to vote on a proposed final budget of between $65 million and $66 million that calls for a 3.2 percent tax increase and cuts that include 15 teaching positions.

The venue for the 7:30 p.m. regular monthly meeting has been changed to the  auditorium. (Board meetings usually are held at the school district's administrative offices.)

Speakers wishing to comment on the proposed budget will have opportunities at the beginning and end of the meeting. 

Once the board votes to adopt a proposed final budget, it will then be posted for public review. The next step in the process is for the finance committee to discuss the budget and hear from the public at 6 p.m. May 29.

Final adoption of the budget and setting of the tax rate is scheduled for the board's June 25 meeting.

For tonight's meeting, the board will first host its annual recognition program to honor retirees prior to the regular school board meeting.

This year’s retirees include: Clair Altemus, Larry Creeks, Harry Daniels, Lynn Campbell, Caroll (Denny) Densmore, Julie Forsyth, Diana Hufnagle Melinda McKinnis, Nancy Merriman-Koegler, Karen Lee, Carol Pearson, Sally Schuster, Carol Shanholtz, Kathleen Smalstig, Kathryn Rezzetano, Donald Thomas, Richard Todd and Joanne Yingling.

 

Click here to see the proposed reductions that are outlined as Plan A in a memo from Superintenent Dr. Mary Bucci. The cuts include:

Physical Education:

A cut in the number of physical education teachers from 17 to 11.5 in the district. 

Physical education time at Eden Hall would be reduced from six days in a 10-day rotation to once a week in grades four, five, and six for 40 minutes. This would include health instruction.

High school requirements would be reduced to 1 credit of physical education, including health education. Currently, high school students are required to take a PE class every year.

Changes at Eden Hall to Simplify the Schedule

1. General music would be reduced from three days in a 10-day rotation to once a week in grades four, five, and six as it is in grades one, two, and three. The current time for music is 30 minutes three times in 10 days for a total of 90 minutes. The program change would provide 5 minutes per week less general music time.

2. General art would be reduced from three days in a 10-day rotation to once a week in grades four, five, and six as it is in grades one, two, and three. The current time for art is 30 minutes three times in 10 days for a total of 90 minutes. The program change would provide 5 minutes per week less general art time.

3. In grades 4-6, advanced language arts and math instruction will be provided through the biomes to which the student will be assigned. There will be one or more advanced language arts sections at each grade level depending upon the achievement scores of the students within the biomes.

Placement exams will be given to determine individual student need. The number of placement assessments has been reduced to minimize the amount of testing time for students at the elementary grade levels. Curriculum-based assessments, standardized assessments, classroom grades, and 2011-2012 PSSA scores will be some of the determining factors in placing students in advanced programming.

4. Currently all students at Eden Hall receive keyboarding instruction in grades four, five, and six for three days out of a 10- day cycle. That would change to once a week for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. The keyboarding would be for fourth grade only. The business curriculum in grades five and six would be upgraded to cover Microsoft Office programs and web tools.

5. Currently all students at Eden Hall receive world language instruction in grades four, five, and six for three days in a 10-day cycle. The proposal would change world language instruction to once a week in grades four, five, and six.

6. This would round out the weekly encore rotation:

• One physical education class per week;

• One music class per week;

• One art class per week;

• One business class per week;

• One world language class per week.

7. Band, chorus, orchestra and instrument lessons would be offered to fifth and sixth graders only. (Currently, the classes are offered to fourth-graders also.)

8. Plan A requires the reduction of one-half of a current art position, one and one-half of current music positions, and two current elementary classroom teaching positions.

High School Electives

Since A. W. Beattie Career/Vocational School currently offers a child development program in which Pine-Richland High School students are able to enroll, Bucci is proposing that the district eliminate the child development program at the high school.

Music electives such as Beginner Piano and Music Theory would also be eliminated. These reductions in programming would eliminate one family and consumer science position and one-half music position at the high school. 

Click here to see Pine-Richland School District budget documents, emails and a timeline.

PR School Board to Consider Budget Proposal With 3.2 Percent Tax Increase

Proposed budget also calls for cuts.

  • Published May 17, 2012

When the Pine-Richland School Board meets Monday, it will have a budget proposal before it that calls for a 3.2 percent tax increase and cuts that include 15 teaching positions.

That is what the finance committee decided Wednesday night as it considered a budget of about $65 million that has a $2 million gap between revenue and expenses.

The proposal has a caveat—about $477,300 of the increased revenue would be placed in a reserve to help deal with the rising costs of thePublic School Employees' Retirement System, commonly referred to as PSERS.

The school board is scheduled to vote at its 7:30 p.m. Monday meeting to adopt a proposed final budget, which will then be posted for public review.

The meeting will be held at the Pine-Richland School District Administrative Offices Building, 702 Warrendale Road, Gibsonia.

The finance committee meets again to discuss the budget and hear from the public at 6 p.m. May 29.

Final adoption of the budget and setting the tax rate is scheduled for the board's June 25 meeting.

Click here to see the proposed reductions that are outlined as Plan A in a memo from Superintenent Dr. Mary Bucci. The cuts include:

Physical Education:

A cut in the number of physical education teachers from 17 to 11.5 in the district. 

Physical education time at Eden Hall would be reduced from six days in a 10-day rotation to once a week in grades four, five, and six for 40 minutes. This would include health instruction.

High school requirements would be reduced to 1 credit of physical education, including health education. Currently, high school students are required to take a PE class every year.

Changes at Eden Hall to Simplify the Schedule

1. General music would be reduced from three days in a 10-day rotation to once a week in grades four, five, and six as it is in grades one, two, and three. The current time for music is 30 minutes three times in 10 days for a total of 90 minutes. The program change would provide 5 minutes per week less general music time.

2. General art would be reduced from three days in a 10-day rotation to once a week in grades four, five, and six as it is in grades one, two, and three. The current time for art is 30 minutes three times in 10 days for a total of 90 minutes. The program change would provide 5 minutes per week less general art time.

3. In grades 4-6, advanced language arts and math instruction will be provided through the biomes to which the student will be assigned. There will be one or more advanced language arts sections at each grade level depending upon the achievement scores of the students within the biomes.

Placement exams will be given to determine individual student need. The number of placement assessments has been reduced to minimize the amount of testing time for students at the elementary grade levels. Curriculum-based assessments, standardized assessments, classroom grades, and 2011-2012 PSSA scores will be some of the determining factors in placing students in advanced programming.

4. Currently all students at Eden Hall receive keyboarding instruction in grades four, five, and six for three days out of a 10- day cycle. That would change to once a week for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. The keyboarding would be for fourth grade only. The business curriculum in grades five and six would be upgraded to cover Microsoft Office programs and web tools.

5. Currently all students at Eden Hall receive world language instruction in grades four, five, and six for three days in a 10-day cycle. The proposal would change world language instruction to once a week in grades four, five, and six.

6. This would round out the weekly encore rotation:

• One physical education class per week;

• One music class per week;

• One art class per week;

• One business class per week;

• One world language class per week.

7. Band, chorus, orchestra and instrument lessons would be offered to fifth and sixth graders only.

8. Plan A requires the reduction of one-half of a current art position, one and one-half of current music positions, and two current elementary classroom teaching positions.

High School Electives

Since A. W. Beattie Career/Vocational School currently offers a child development program in which Pine-Richland High School students are able to enroll, Bucci is proposing that the district eliminate the child development program at the high school.

Music electives such as Beginner Piano and Music Theory would also be eliminated. These reductions in programming would eliminate one family and consumer science position and one-half music position at the high school. 

Click here to see Pine-Richland School District budget documents, emails and a timeline.

 

TACT Seeks to Raise Awareness About Proposed Budget Cuts Affecting PR Schools

TACT stands for Pine-Richland Teachers and Community Together.

  • Published May 8, 2012

A crowd gathered outside the Pine-Richland School Board's meeting Monday night in an effort to raise awareness about proposed cuts in the schools' budget.

"Are we dropping our elite status?" was printed at the top of six different fliers passed out by TACT—Pine-Richland Teachers and Community Together—to inform the public about cuts in various program areas.

"We're trying to save our top-of-the-line programs at Pine-Richland," said TACT co-founder Shawn Scott, a ninth grade earth science teacher. "We're making people aware our quality programs are at risk."

The Pine-Richland School Board was not scheduled to vote on the budget Monday night. The next step in the budget process is for the finance committee to discuss the budget at its 6 p.m. May 16 meeting.

The public is invited to speak to the board during its "Recognition of Visitors" time at the beginnning and end of every meeting.

When asked what TACT proposes, Scott said the group is not advancing a proposal. He said no TACT representatives would speak before the board Monday night.

Speakers would represent themselves, not the group, he said.

The fliers referred to proposed cuts in physical education, music, art and the child development program at Pine-Richland High School. They also referred to reductions in the world languages program and the business and technology program at Eden Hall Upper Elementary.

As the meeting started, school board President Stephen Hawbaker asked people standing in the hallway to come into the conference room where the board was meeting.

Director Peter Lyons stepped to the door and said, "There are a lot of empty seats. Please come in."

A number of people then filed into the room, filling chairs and circling the room with a standing-room-only crowd. Still, more people remained outside the building.

Hawbaker said he "was not made aware" that a large group would be attending the board's meeting.

"Had we known, we would have made accommodations" by meeting in a larger venue, said Hawbaker.

About 30 people spoke, encouraging the board not to cut programs, even if that means raising taxes.

Several students told the board that classes on the proposed cut list, such as those in the family and consumer sciences department, have helped make them well-rounded people.

They also talked about classes that helped prepare them for careers in education, music and other areas.

Wendy Compernolle, who has four children in the school district, pointed out how many hours will be cut in art, band, physical education, world languages and music at Eden Hall.

Other parents spoke about how vital the elective programs are to students. 

"I never thought I'd say this," said parent Heather Kisow. "Raise my taxes. Raise them as much as you want. I came here and I want to stay here."

 

School District Faces $2 Million Budget Gap, Considers Eliminating 15 Teacher Positions

Tax increase and educational program cuts also on the table for consideration.

  • Published April 26, 2012

Pine-Richland School District faces a $2 million budget gap and is considering eliminating 15 full-time teacher positions, raising taxes and cutting educational programs.

The district's school board voted unanimously this week to agree to a plan outlined by Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci to change or curtail programs and, in turn, reduce the number of teachers and professional staff.

That vote enables the district to send the plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for approval, which is required before the district can implement changes that might result in cutting professional staff, according to a memo from Bucci.

Treasurer Dennis Sundo explained that the vote does not mean the board will carry out Bucci's plan.

"The intention ... is to leave the finance committee as many options as possible. Our work is starting now," said Sundo, who chairs the finance committee. "The gap is real. The gap is $2 million."

The finance committee will discuss the budget at 6 p.m. on May 16 at the administration building at 702 Warrendale Road, Gibsonia, which is directly behind Pine-Richland High School. The meeting is open to the public.

If the district cuts the 15 teaching positions, it also might suspend or furlough an undetermined amount of professional employees, Bucci's letter outlining the plan states.

In addition, contracts of certain temporary professional employees might not be renewed, according to the plan.

The number of employees affected depends "on staff realignment rights under Section 1125.1 of the School Code and the collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Pine-Richland Education Association, as well as the number of positions vacated due to retirement or resignation that could potentially be eliminated by reassigning existing staff," Bucci wrote in the letter.

Bucci wrote that the district "can more effectively and efficiently deliver required curriculum ... through the elimination or consolidation of programs and corresponding staffing reductions ..."

The changes involve the following:

  • reducing health and physical education instruction time throughout the district;
  • reducing or cutting music, art, business and world language instruction at Eden Hall Upper Elementary;
  • cutting the child development program at Pine-Richland High School because it also is offered at A.W. Beattie Career/Vocational School;
  • eliminating beginner piano and music theory at the high school;

Click here to see Bucci's memo to the school board that details the plan. 

In a budget summary posted on the district's website, the budget looks like this:

  • Budget gap = $1,982,940
  • Use of fund balance for capital projects plan = $472, 619
  • Additional tax revenue from increase to adjusted index = $830,710
  • Proposed curtailment of programs = $873,757
  • Assigned fund balance for 2013-14 or class-size reduction = $194,146 

In a complex process that involves getting approvals from the Pennsylvania Department of Education through various steps of the budgeting process, the school district passed a preliminary budget in January that factored in a 0.95-mill increase in the real estate tax rate.

“This is very preliminary,” Bucci said in January. “What this does is allow us to apply for exceptions to the (state) index” to allow an increase beyond Pine-Richland's 2 percent limit.

Currently, the tax rate is 21.9084 mills; the proposed rate is 22.8584 mills, an increase of 4.34 percent.

The school board did not raise taxes last year.

The Pine-Richland School Board will start deliberating what to do with the budget at its May 16 finance committee meeting. Here is the schedule for budget deliberations and votes. All meetings are held at the school district administration building at 702 Warrendale Road, Gibsonia.

  • May 21, 2012 - Adoption of Proposed Final Budget at 7:30 p.m. 
  • May 29, 2012 - PR Finance Committee Meeting at 6 p.m. (canceled)
  • June 5, 2012- Deadline to Post Proposed Final Budget for Public Review
  • June 25, 2012 - Adoption of Tax Rates & Final Budget at 7:30 p.m.

 

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