Williamsport Area Trying To Make Budget, Says Cuts Are Needed

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Another school district in our area says cuts to staff and programs will be necessary in order to make budget.

The Williamsport Area School Board needs to close a more than $3 million gap before approving the district’s proposal for the 2012-2013 school year.

“Governor Corbett said we would have level funding. That is certainly not true,” said Williamsport Area Superintendent Kathleen Kelley as she presented the district’s budget at a school board meeting Tuesday night.

The spending plan proposal for the upcoming school year still needs final approval, however at the meeting the board agreed employees must be cut.

“The concern is how long are we going to be able to continue to be cut and provide a free and appropriate education to the children of Pennsylvania?” said teachers union president Kevin Choate.

The district is proposing a $78.7 million budget for 2012-2013 and it's roughly $3.5 million short. To close that gap, the board approved a plan to leave positions of retiring employees unfilled. Some teachers will be furloughed and some programs consolidated.

Some students came out as a show of force to protest those changes.

“We’re really concerned about some of the positions that are going to be cut through the school board,” said senior Matt Stahlnecker. “We just want to show our support and hopefully do everything they can to keep them in the districts.”

“I mean we’re losing teachers, we’re losing all our CTE programs one by one,” said senior Stephen Cuneo. “Our school is falling apart.”

The proposal includes a 2.4 percent property tax increase; that’s an extra $33.90 for a home assessed at $100,000.

Even with the additional tax, the board also approved laying off some support staff, which includes cafeteria workers to secretaries.

“We’re dealing with the children all the way up into the administration, with daily routine needs, with the students as well as the administration,” said Andrea McEntire, the support staff union secretary.

The district superintendent said it’s not clear which district employees would be furloughed at this point.

A final budget is due June 30.