Pine-Richland Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci rolled out the school district's $63 million budget Monday night that cuts $1.5 million by eliminating positions, not filling vacancies, and by reducing funding for sports and student activities.
She presented the proposed budget to a packed room at the school board meeting.
The budget also calls for reducing the district's fund balance by $850,000. Adding that amount to the $1.5 million in proposed cuts closes the $2.3 million gap between estimated income and expenses for the 2011-12 school year.
The board votes on the proposed final budget May 9; the final budget will be adopted June 13 and a tax rate will be set.
The budget presented Monday night calls for no increase to the district's tax rate of 21.9084 mills.
Treasurer Dennis Sundo noted that a 3.6 percent tax rate increase would give the school district a budget with no cuts.
Some proposed cuts were restored before Monday night's meeting because a planned 2 percent health-care rate increase by the Allegheny County Health Consortium was not put into effect.
"As a result, the district can continue providing money to partially subsidized club sports and partially funded sports, academic competitions, the musical program, forensics and the Technology Student Association," Bucci said in a letter to the community that is posted on the district's website.
Members of the forensics team thanked the board for putting funds for the team back into the budget. About half of the 20 speakers at Monday's meeting represented current and past students who told the board how much the forensics experience meant to them.
Other speakers expressed concern that they did not know how to respond to the proposed budget because no specifics were available before the meeting.
Wendy Compernolle of Richland Township, who has four children in the district, questioned why field trips were being eliminated when parents pay for those trips. She also questioned eliminating the Gateway to the Arts program, which receives PTO funding.
Compernolle asked about increased class sizes and said she envisioned teachers getting burned out.
Randy Hyde of Gibsonia said he appreciated the daunting task of balancing the budget, but felt cutting back on the music performance opportunities for children was "a tragedy."
Lisa Murslack of Pine Township said the cuts "impact students in the classroom and definitely impacts them outside the classroom.
"I'd sure like to see a tax increase" instead of cuts that impact the students, she said.
Some speakers suggested students "pay to play" when they participate in sports or club activities.
Board President Stephen Hawbaker explained that board members listen, but do not respond, to the speakers' comments so everyone is treated equitably.
"The truth is we all have these same questions," he said.