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Muncy School District looks at ways to save money

By Staff | Aug 16, 2011

Bill Ramsey is discussing ways with committee members on reducing costs for Muncy School District's budget during the second Stake Holders Budgetary meeting held at the high school auditorium last Monday night. Members were divided up into 5 working group sessions.

MUNCY – A second monthly budgetary meeting was held last Monday night at the high school for Muncy School District to look at ways to save money within the school district. Five sub-committees were formed to digest ideas under five different categories to brainstorm and gather information to save funds to these assigned areas according to Superintendent, Dr. Portia Brandt.

School board president, Tom Gardner announced that the Muncy School Board will need to raise taxes but wants to look at other ways and possibilities to save money. Based on models from other school districts in Pennsylvania who have tried this, such as Pottsgrove in Berks County, Gardner said the concept of getting area residents and businesses involved, is helping to save large dollar amounts by doing things differently. Residents and teachers gathered for input to make suggestions and see what areas some funds could be cut.

Over fifty community members attended the first meeting in July. “We want the public to look closely at the budgets and make recommendations, discuss ideas to bring the taxes down,” Gardner said. “Let’s be creative, looking at our finances.”

The five areas for rolling back funds are Education, Energy and Facilities, Extra-Curricular, Support Services and Technology.

When asked how much to take off, Gardner replied $500,000. “I came up with that number because that’s the number the state took away from our budgets. And we will be challenged again next year. There is a tax increase of 1.5 mils, but we don’t have to keep it there next year.”

David Edkin, business manager, said that the entire district budget is online at the school district’s website for the public as he gave a monetary overview for each of the key five funding areas.

The first area includes all education programs, teacher salaries, benefits, supplies, books, equipment, driver education, special education and alternative education . Regular classroom education is budgeted at $5,750,000 for the district.

Next is Energy and Facilities budgeted at $1,220,000. “This includes a total cost to run all of the buildings,” Edkin said with electricity the largest expense at $160,000 followed by natural gas at $105,000.

The third area of concentration is on extra-curricular which includes athletic programs, cheerleading, band, chorus and clubs for a total of $478,000.

Support services includes guidance at $320,000, the library at $230,000, pupil health for $130,000, transportation, the largest at $400,000.

Technology takes up $360,000 of the district’s budget which includes web hosting, repairs and maintenance, Internet access, software and equipment.

Administration falls under support services. “Anything that is non-instructional such as office staff, falls under support services,” said Edkin.

Suggestions included looking at less costly education options for in-house services vs. outsourcing. As for supplies, one parent recommended a supply list be given to each child at the beginning of the school year to see what they can provide. To save energy, some suggested minimizing the building usage for outside groups or charge for its usage. “Energy needs to be district wide,” said Jerry Knier.

As for athletics, “We can’t really put a price tag on its value,” said Tim Welliver. Potential cuts to some of the clubs might be forthcoming. Ways to fund them at no cost to the district and make them self-sustaining were discussed. “They can be completely self-sufficient including volunteers and stipends for the advisors,” said one of the committee members. Looking at overall costs of sports is a big objective, breaking it down or cutting individual sports and members to a certain number can also work, they said, but agreed to keep the co-ops such as tennis, field hockey and golf.

The support services committee said that more details were needed and breakdowns for each category before making cut recommendations.

“We’re here as stake holders,” commented Gary Jones from Pennsdale. “I am so encouraged. We have to be solid on all grounds,” announced Dr. Brandt at the conclusion of the meeting and encouraged the sub-committees to meet on their own. The Stake Holders Budget committees will meet each month, the second Monday, at Muncy High School in the auditorium until December, so that a new budget can be presented for the next school year to the board. The next group meeting is set for Sept. 12 to go over questions raised by the sub-committees, and the public is invited and welcome to come and participate in these budgetary discussions.