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

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

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. 
  • 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.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Over the weekend, I deleted comments because some violated our Terms of Service. I did not have time to screen all of them at the time because I was, quite literally, running out the door to cover a police action on Saturday. 

I am republishing below some of the comments that I previously deleted. I am not publishing ones that violate our Acceptable Use Policy listed under our Terms of Service.

We encourage a lively discussion on issues affecting the community. However, we do not publish content that "is defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive."

Do you agree or disagree with the comments here? Feel free to post comments that are in keeping with our Acceptable Use Policy.

Thanks. Cindy

It's no surprise that Dr Bucci feels that the school district has failed at Eden Hall. The great potential is there in the teachers and students. I feel it is time for a change at the top to provide better leadership and vision. In essence my child's three years could have been educationally better. This was easy to see as a parent as the schedule has changed every year providing a lack of consistency. J


When I read "physical," I became frightened as I thought it may hurt the current state of sports at Pine-Richland. Fortunately, reading on, I saw it was for 'education' and realized it would have no influence on any children. To anyone else who was scared by this when reading the article, I recommend reading this article: . It reaffirms that the school has its brains where they should be: sports.

In fact, I propose that the school district cut all education from the curriculum to help finance the new athletic director. Doing so would free up a lot of the budgets, and since "It is super imperative to hire the best qualified applicant" as Dr. Bob Petcash says, we must have the funds free to hire this best applicant money can buy.

While some may not agree with this strategy, it should be on the table. After all, we must "leave the finance committee as many options as possible" as Sundo stated.

Fortunately in this dark time (dark thanks to the increasing number of windowless rooms. After all, adding this natural light will get in the students' eyes when they take standardized testing), we, the community, can take comfort knowing that the students will be less distracted by 'cultural' things like art, music, and language. For it is the duty of the school district to created students who are set entirely on their ideals.

Especially when those ideals are sports.


Well said, Truth Assassin. I couldn't agree more. The article you posted says it all. The priorities blow my mind.


Take a look at the budget changes in the 5 year chart from the PR website (http://pinerichland.schoolwires.net/20211071420496520/lib/20211071420496520/apr18packet.pdf). There are some interesting changes pre and post Mary Bucci, one of which is the dramatic increase in costs in Central Admin item 300 Purchased Prof and Tech services ($200K to $1.2 million). Six years ago elementary class sizes were about 18, now they are 25. I am sure the community would prefer more teachers to more administrators (also the reason for the dramatic increase in the cost of college). With the payments required for retirement fund jumping each year, PR Board had better take a hard look at costs and start reducing areas without hurting the kids or else we will be facing tax increases every year. Maybe reducing all the pre-pre-tests (e.g. Aimsweb) to predict PSSA performance to lower both costs and kids' stress? Maybe not re-doing all the curricula to match the ever-changing state tests and to experience every new educational fad especially without cost analyses or parent input (e.g reform-type enVisionMATH, whole-language -not phonics- Guided Reading, Stem Project Lead the Way)? Losing 15 teachers but adding a Global Studies Department? Parents need to wake up!!


Wow- I am really surprised that none of you have talked about the raping of our children's education by the pension system. You should all be calling your legislators and rallying the elected school board to do the same. Take a look at the crime of the century that will take place in the next five years by the Union and it's pension- contribution rates to go up to 25%! That is the real injustice- that is what will destroy children's education in this district and every other school district in PA. There is no denying it. It will force districts to cut more and more or increase taxes - there is no way out unless every tax paying citizen and parent demands change in the pension system.


 

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a mom April 29, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I pondered for a long while as to how to comment on this disgracedul situation at Pine Richland so that I would choose my words wisely. I am an insider and have seen the waste of funds that we do not have first hand. Children are being cheated of what should be a superior education. In turn our district spends money on things like all brand new furniture in the high school office. We are so concerned about hiring a qualified athletic director. Why did our athletic director retire from that position but yet stay as a football coach? There is more to this than the taxpayers know. It appears that Pine Richland school district is nothing more than a dog and pony show. Were any tax payers proud to learn that we went from 15 to 14 this year in our test scores. North Allegheny, Upper Saint Clair, Hampton, and eleven more had higher test scores than PR. Has anyone questioned why a teacher is nicknamed "drive through geometry"? For years we had teachers that had no classrooms at all so thus they pushed around a cart from room to room. I wondered why we just did not make use of the stadium. The theatre seating would make a great lecture hall. The spirit room could have made a wonderful classroom. Even the entrance could have been set up as a classroom. Richland Elementary had several unused classrooms. The use of space really was not well thought out before we built the addition on the HS. Could we not have used the stadium have a 2 portable classrooms and wait 2 years for expansion?
Marianne Barth April 29, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I find it very interesting that our school district is $2 million over budget, yet they can afford to have our kids attend 4 more days over the required 180 days. Each day that school is in session involves paying alot of people alot of money. How about saving a few programs or jobs and going back to 180 days like most of the other schools in our area. If 180 days is good for everyone else, including the state, why can't it be good enough for Pine-Richland?
Alan April 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM
I am deeply concerned why the previous nine comments were deleted. Is Bucci being protected? The Patch should do an approval poll on Bucci...that would be very telling. She is a joke and needs to go away!
Alan April 30, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Why were the previous nine comments deleted? Is someone protecting Bucci? I would like to see the patch do an approval poll on Bucci...I am sure it would confirm how we all feel about the horrible job she has done. She is a disgrace to her job and she has destroyed this school district. Bucci wants all this flash and there is no substance to any of it. How can you eliminate teachers jobs and you have construction going on? We are two million dollars in debt and she wants a traffic light put in at the highschool! The administration needs to go away IMMEDIATELY. Bucci needs to take her puppet Hawbaker with her.
Fed Up Parents April 30, 2012 at 01:49 PM
This school district is in a very bad place. The administration spends money on flashy items that at the expense of our children. They lost a great principle at Richland Elementary. They have a dictator as a principle at Eden Hall who is as cold hearted as they come. Finally, Mary Bucci is clueless when it comes to running this district. This school district once had a wonderful reputation and now it is one of the poorest in Western Pa. How can the school board allow this to continue? Why are we, the taxpayers footing the bill for this adminstrations incompetence. How can we lay off or eliminate teacher positions when we have construction happening? We are $2 Million in debt but we can find the funding for a traffic light to be installed at the high school. Bucci wants a parking garage at the high school??? The incompetence rages on!
a mom April 30, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I just brought my child home from Huntington Learning Center since he has failed miserably in mathematics at the HS. I am a proactive parent and not one who sits by idlely. In any case PR mathematics lost him in 9th grade. I will say it again that I speak from firsthand knowledge. No disrespect to our teacher of the year, she cannot carry the whole math department. Dr Bucci personally told me soon after she was appointed that she took special interest in our special needs program. That program has been chipped away every year since then . Dr. Bucci needs to address the public outcry honestly and openly. We all must attend the next school board meeting. Lets make it standing room only! I wish that I could send my tutoring bill to the board but they are to busy choosing a new athletic director. SO sad! I feel sorry for our two new board members, for I am sure they did not know they were stepping into a bee's nest.
crosbycat April 30, 2012 at 11:20 PM
It is a great comcern that every principal in every building has been replaced since Mary Bucci became Superintendent. Eden Hall is a beautiful facility but extravagent, with trees overgrowing their spaces in just a few years, flat screen TVs all over the place (once I was in a school office and Law and Order SVU was on), and specially tuned instrument rooms for novice students (if you have heard a beginner on the sax, you know why this was a waste of money). Eden Hall was intended to focus on Elementary, but has been run as a Middle School. I know going from 15 to 14 looks unimpressive, and it is considering the vast amounts of teaching time and taxpayer money going into preparing for the PSSAs. But the fact is the state standards are not considered to be good, and as a 40-something parent I still remember that teachers are not supposed to teach to the test, yet we bought all new curricula to match the state tests, Too much testing as if we cannot trust our teachers to do their jobs! We need to stop pressuring the teachers, stop buying (wasting time and money) on assessments to check how we are going to do on the tests, and start trusting our teachers to be the professionals that they are. They can tell which of their students are struggling both academically and otherwise. We are wasting so much money here and ruining the educational experience for students, parents and teachers, and it needs to stop. Only one year left on Bucci's contract..
crosbycat April 30, 2012 at 11:30 PM
I'm not done yet. The basic sentiment among parents is that taxes should not be raised and teachers (and aides!) should not be cut. The Board seems to be looking for ways to increase revenue - this is from the March 26 agenda: to table the motion: authorize the solicitor to initiate real estate assessment appeals of all non-newly constructed properties within the Township of Pine and Richland Township transferred in 2011 where the selling price is greater than 140% of the assessed value and the taxes generated on the difference between the selling price and assessed value would exceed $1,000. This notice does not authorize the solicitor to appeal those properties that are assessed only on the lot and now have a constructed dwelling on the parcel. And: Motion to authorize the filing of assessment appeals where the difference between the unadjusted sale price and annual 2013 assessment is such as to suggest an annual revenue effect of $5000 for sales in 2002 through 2007, and $3000 for sales occurring in 2008 through 2011. There should be a windfall from the Allegheny County re-assessments. People really should be attending the meetings.
Cindy Cusic Micco May 01, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Just a point of clarification on a few things—plans for the high school expansion and renovation began years ago under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. James Manley, who has since retired. In July 2008, a committee of 44 people came up with recommendations on expanding and renovating the high school, which was nearing capacity. If you're interested in what was proposed then, here is a link to that report: http://pinerichland.schoolwires.net/202110111912034963/lib/202110111912034963/hsexpansion0708.pdf Also, if I remember correctly, the traffic lights are a PennDOT requirement. Does anyone else remember the role of PennDOT in this?
crosbycat May 01, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Our math dept head/teacher of the year strongly believes in "Student Centered" learning as opposed to teacher-led learning. See here for PR Math Curriculum Report 2005 (http://www.pinerichland.org/MathCurriculumReport.pdf). It is not true that traditional math did not include "real world problems" or "conceptual understanding" - far from it! But those who have pushed this reform math believe that we can omit the "tedious" repetition of math practice (drill and kill) in exchange for providing open-ended problems. This philosophy does not necessarily go well with special needs kids' learning styles (or with those who want to major in math, engineering, physics etc in college). The tendency towards working in groups, class participation, and non-traditional (i.e. weird and obscure) math topics are difficult for some students - ironically often those who would have prospered in traditional math. We moved here for the special ed program and when we eventually tried to use it, found we were butting heads from the moment we asked for educational testing, in developing an IEP, working with learning support - much as the family who asked to bring a guide dog to school for their son with Asperger's syndrome ( http://pine-richland.patch.com/articles/parents-of-autistic-child-losing-patience-with-pine-richland-school-district-over-request-for-service-dog).
TomENough May 01, 2012 at 12:34 PM
We all NEED to show up at the board meeting on May 7th! The only thing I think Ms Bucci (I refuse to call her Dr), might understand, and I stress might, is parental outrage!
Dave Tramontana May 03, 2012 at 12:17 PM
I believe that in the new plans for the renovated high school call for a classroom specifically designed to house both the piano lab and music theory class. Does this mean that the district built a room specifically to hold classes they intend to cut from the program? If so, I am angry that my tax dollars are being wasted so irresponsibly. What once was a priority to include into a multi-million dollar facility is now deemed a waste? The lack of leadership and vision concerns me greatly.
Concerned PR Alumnus May 12, 2012 at 01:13 AM
The assistant principle at the high school is leaving for another job. Why doesn't the district save two teaching positions by having his responsibilities reassigned to other administrators like the curriculum coordinator in charge of "Pupil Services" who used to be a principal? It's almost harder to reduce administrative positions than teacher positions now. This is an easy way for Dr. Bucci to lead by example and reduce the administrative burden on the budget. Also, look to attrition to create the budget space needed. With PR's large distribution of salaries, a retiring teacher saves 2 teachers at the bottom of the pay scale (who are the first to go by seniority). So seven retiring teachers and one less administrator closes the budget gap instead of firing 15 teachers. In many of the subjects that are targeted for cuts there are teachers within 2 years from retirement. Offer appropriate incentives and strategically use those retirements to avoid losing hardworking young teachers.
Rich W May 13, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I believe there are some "true" budgetary issues here; however, I also believe in large part that this is the School Board and Administration attempting to use the "cutting of positions" as leverage in contract negotiations. This tactic is becoming more and more evident throughout western Pennsylvania. This tactic takes much of the heat of the school leaders and places all the budgetary woes innocently on teachers. The district administration, as well as all public schools in PA, are well aware and duly informed that the retirement funding structure was changing and they did absolutely nothing to prepare.
crosbycat May 14, 2012 at 06:35 PM
I was hoping to see a story on the Board meeting last Monday as I am sure there were parents attending and their actual comments/viewpoints will NOT be included in the Board meeting minutes. The agenda for May 7 actually had useful info and included a link to a report which listed cyber and charter schools as one of the top 5 expenses or reasons for going over budget but if you compare 2008 to 2012, you will se many areas which are vastly higher than the increase in cyber/charter school tuition. This district has a very good reputation and if parents have pulled thier kids out, then I think the Adminstration should be looking at the issues causing people to leave the schools rather than making cyber/charter schools a scapegoat.
Cindy Cusic Micco May 14, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Hi crosbycat, Here is a link to the story about last Monday's school board meeting. http://pine-richland.patch.com/articles/tact-seeks-to-raise-awareness-about-proposed-budget-cuts-affecting-pr-schools As far as I know, the school district's population keeps growing. I have not seen any indicator showing people leaving the school district. Analyzing the budget is difficult and I am not a financial expert, so I'm not sure about specifics on cyber and charter schools. If you have questions, I suggest that you attend the finance committee meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Here's a link to a story on that meeting: http://patch.com/A-tpyN
Cindy Cusic Micco May 14, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Also, I was curious about your comment about the parents' comments not being included in the board minutes. I looked up Robert's Rules of Order. Here is the link: http://www.rulesonline.com/rror-10.htm It appears the secretary is supposed to make note of actions only, not the debate. When I thought about it, it makes sense not to quote non-board members because they have no power to correct the minutes if they feel their words were misrepresented. Approval of the minutes comes from board members. Of course, parents are welcome to leave their comments on Patch.

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