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Article published December 29, 2012
Mars, Seneca Valley battle budget deficits
The Cranberry Eagle is taking a look back at 2012. Wednesday’s edition will include stories on Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School and growth in Cranberry Township. ——— It was another year of budget deficits and staff reductions at the Mars and Seneca Valley school districts as economic turmoil continues to necessitate belt-tightening around the state. Seneca Valley’s school board overcame a $4.8 million deficit created by increased pension costs and decreased funding from the state. The board did so by initiating a property tax increase of 4.4 mills. The property tax rate now sits at 110 mills in the $97.4 million budget. For the second year in a row, the school board was forced to cut jobs, programs and curriculum to balance the budget as well as adopt a tax increase. The board cut 15.5 teaching positions and four administrators to cut expenditures. In the 2011-12 budget, the board cut 68 positions to help balance the budget. The positions eliminated in the current school year were in the art, math, social studies, science, Spanish and health and physical education departments. In addition, the board cut some paraprofessionals’ hours from 7½ hours a day to 6. It also mandated that administrators, secretaries and the custodial staff spread their 40-hour week over four days instead of five for at least eight weeks in the summer to cut building and operating costs. The budgetary headache wasn’t much better in Mars, where the board passed a $38.8 million spending plan that avoided a property tax hike. The budget initially had a $2.5 million deficit, a number that was whittled down by the elimination of teaching positions and programs. Those cuts included the furloughing of two technology integration teachers and two guidance counselors. The board also chose not to replace four retiring teachers and also curtailed the eighth-grade world language class at the middle school. The school district’s property tax rate remained at 99 mills. In November, the board and teachers agreed on a new contract.