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Scranton School Board Passes Tentative $157 Million Budget, Includes Staff Cuts and Deficit

SCRANTON  -- The Scranton School Board approved a tentative budget for the 2018 school year.

That $157 million budget calls for the layoffs of 89 teachers in specialty programs and still contains a nearly $4 million deficit.

Thursday night, there was a large turnout of some very unhappy parents, students, and staff at the board meeting.

Still, the board told the crowd that this was only a tentative budget and that due to the district being under financial watch by the state, it was given an extension of three months, meaning the board has to come up with a balanced budget by March 31, 2018.

But even hearing that news didn’t make anyone happy.

“I would just like to know, all of you listen to the radio correct?” Scranton Senior Josh Radford asked the school board. “That's music, why would you want to cut that away from us?”

One after the other, parents, students and staff in the Scranton School District made their last-ditch plea to the school board to not pass an extremely unpopular budget.

“You want to cut art, music and teachers` jobs and all you want to do is put a band-aid up,” said Tom Miller.

That budget calls for the layoffs of 89 staff members, many teachers in specialty programs such as music, art, special education and physical education.

“These people, they belong to my union and they have brothers and sisters throughout the state and we will stand together,” said Rosemary Boland, the president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers Union.

The district had been facing a nearly $19 million shortfall in its 2018 spending plan but with those cuts to staff and an infusion of $2 million of state money it was able to get the deficit down to $3.5 million.

“I can't help to think that our children that we teach did not create this debt and yet, I still think that they are being punished for it,” said teacher Roberta Jadick as the auditorium erupted into applause. “I said it at the last meeting.”

Despite the backlash, all nine members approved the $157 million budget.

But the board told the crowd this budget is a tentative one and could change in the next three months.

Typically, the school board has to approve its budget by December 31 but because it is on financial watch by the state it was given until the end of March to come up with a balanced spending plan.

“You've been given time by the state to fix the problem. take your time, go line by line and figure out the solutions,” said Ryan Hnat, who teaches art at Armstrong Elementary School.

This tentative budget does include a tax increase with the average homeowner paying an additional $47 per year.

STATEMENT FROM SCRANTON SCHOOL DISTRICT

This evening the Scranton School Board passed a Proposed Budget for 2018. With passage of this proposed budget, the Scranton School District now has ninety additional days to take a closer look at options and work through scenarios in order to pass a final, balanced budget by April 1, 2018.

This ongoing budget process is critical for the District as it seeks to achieve sustainable finances and meet the Board’s ultimate mission of providing excellent education to the children of Scranton. From speaking with a range of advisors, policymakers and veterans of districts with similar financial pictures, the Board understands that we must make difficult decisions in order to avoid ceding local control of the District.

There is not one Board Director that wants to see expenditure cuts to the District; however, it is up to the Board to take the responsible, necessary steps now to address the structural deficit and stave off what would be a painful receivership process. The Board acknowledges that errors were made in past years that contributed to part of the current deficit.

The Board’s Solicitor has publicly stated that there is ongoing litigation regarding some of these matters; for others, the Board and its Solicitor are exploring options to remedy past situations. The Solicitor is in direct contact with the District’s transportation providers; additionally, PFM is conducting a review of transportation contracts and will assist in identifying cost savings moving forward.

The ability of the Scranton School District to respond to and govern effectively through this crisis rests not just with this Board, but with the willingness of all stakeholders to come together to find solutions. The Board appreciates the concessions that many staff members and vendors have already made, and will continue to pursue savings from all entities with which we do business.

The Board looks forward to continuing to work with Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, the District administration, the Scranton Federation of Teachers, our PFM consultants and the Pennsylvania Department of Education in these critical ninety days ahead. Our success depends on a focused, united effort.

39 comments

  • Douglass

    This is sad…a non win regardless of side. As a public school educated man myself, I fully support it. I’m also a teacher in another district. Bound by the union, my day is minimal. Bottom line-we need to pay higher premiums and co-pays. Our salary increases should not be a 100% guarantee. Our pensions- more regulated and a personal responsibility. I like the way it’s been, it works for me. However, it doesn’t work for our financial backers anymore (the tax payer). We teach those in the communities we serve. I don’t like it-but we need to help our communities help us.

    • Teecher

      Finally. A voice of reason from an educator. So sad, however, that the union intimidates others from expressing such sentiment.

  • warningfakenews

    These are the very same people organizing the teaching of morality and math to students of the district.

    Amorality and fuzzy math.

  • Frank N.

    If the teachers support their brethren as Boland says, then I assume all the teachers in the district would take a pay and benefit cut to save the about to be laid off teachers??? No???? I didn’t think so.

  • Curly

    The SB did what they had to do.
    What they really needed to add in doing is cutting salaries, pensions, benefits to all teachers and administrators.
    SB can reduce at least 25% of principals et al, and redundant positions.
    That will close the 4 mil deficit.
    Teachers et al must contribute more than the low 1-5% to their health benefits.
    Or how about this we will cover teachers and all for their coverage only, but for family coverage teachers et al must pay 100% of those benefits.
    That is how its done in the pvt biz.
    Also stop pensions, convert everyone to Social Security and to 401K.

  • Earl

    Whatever Dave!.. a 26k bump in 5 years?… The salaries are public information. Please find me a district where they give raises like that. Before you spout off your bogus facts, why don’t you do some research? By the way, let me know when your next employee review is so I go in with ya and tell your boss how ignorant you are so they can give your job to a happy college kid.

  • Marian Bailey

    The school board needs to lay off people and get rid of blood sucking programs and STOP putting it all on the backs of the tax payers most of whom are elderly retired on a fixed income. Consolidate a couple of schools and make classes bigger. Then you don’t need all those teachers. You are sucking us dry and chasing people out of town.

  • Brinsjp

    So if the enrollment is 10,000 students, that is $15,700 per student….WOW!!!! If I lived int he district I would want to know where my dollars are going! And according to Wikipedia 9 of their schools are academically challenged. They are also ranked 456 out of 493 public school systems in the state, and you wonder why people want a school voucher program?

  • Jim Smith

    I am not sure how parents and citizens think you can close a $19 million deficit of a public institution’s operating budget without reducing expenses and raising revenue – this means raising taxes and cuttings staff and programs. The single biggest line item in a public school district’s budget is payroll and benefits, and it is significant. Public school districts need to start facing reality and “living within their means”. The budget should drive the staffing levels, benefits and compensation – not the other way around. Unfortunately in a collective bargaining environment, this is what happens. It is frustrating when you have a mismanaged public school system and then the state steps in and throws more of our tax money at a failing operation to prop it up. Wouldn’t public dollars be better spent offering financial incentives to well-run public school districts that deliver a high-quality product and a reasonable cost?

    • Lloyd (wnep=fakenews) #harrisburgstrong Schmucatelli

      Hahaha!! Throwing logic at a failed system?? Come on man.

      You appear to be a prominent individual.
      Your ideas are great, but your preaching to the choir here.

      The only way it will ever change is if the whole thing is turned inside out.

      Really the only way for that to happen right now would be for all, AND I MEAN ALL, property owners to withhold their school taxes for a few years.

      That would get their attention.

      That goes for most things sustained with tax dollars.

      That is the only answer, TO EVER, correcting these systems and any systems sustained by tax dollars, is to unanimously withhold taxes.

      As long as “we the people” stay divided like we are, it will never happen.

    • Writer Girl

      While you make some good, true statements, people have to stop blaming unions and professionals for budget deficits. Salaries are the biggest expense in plenty of places. If this country wasn’t so stupid and greedy and used our tax dollars to fund healthcare for citizens and only citizens, that burden would be eliminated for everyone. The minute someone suggests that, everyone cries about “the government” and “I don’t want to fund everyone.” Yes, maybe things with the teachers are out of control, but it’s not just the teachers. You can’t expect professionals to work for $10.00 an hour and no healthcare in a career position. People need to get real, also and stop comparing their unprofessional salaries with other types of workers. And raising taxes shouldn’t be the answer, either. The top dogs need to get responsible and as you said, work within a budget. The state shouldn’t even have to step in.

  • jim

    It is not just the teachers. How many principals, asst principals have taken cuts? Those that are in the decision making process have got to give back. You have mismanaged this SD for to long.
    A courageous decision in not touching the over hyped sport programs and coaches and and all the extras that go with it.
    This a fine example of why the US is 20th in the world and falling in education despite spending more money per student then any other country.
    I hope you are proud of yourselves for taking the easy way out…..Or the scared way out…probably afraid of the sports parents!

  • Lance

    The Scranton school system for years was kicking the deficit can down the road. It wasnt done in one year. The union should force the teachers to face reality. Pay toward your healthcare. Don’t demand outrageous salary increases. If they did this years ago would this harsh budget be necessary?

  • The Gimlet Eye

    One dollar of tax increase will be enough for all of you(on the board) to lose your jobs. I did not work all my life to pay rent to SSD. HB 76 is coming and all of you will see your power stripped. Thank God. Any of you that feel the district taxpayers have any sympathy for you or your predecessors are badly mistaken. I am not alone when I say we (the taxpayers) are sick of your feeble excuses and blandly passing out our money to OVERPAID administrators and illegal contracts. The bell has rung.

    • Harrisburg = shooting gallery

      I have to say………well typed.

      The word, “blandly,” is as descriptive as it can be where throwing around citizens’ tax contributions are concerned. I can visualize these overblown narcissistic idiots just grabbing piles of cash and tossing them into the air to see where those bucks land. Greedy, Greedy Smurfs, all of them. I make LESS than 1/2 of the starting salary of a teacher, and I have to pay THEIR college loans and health insurance? LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Uncle Pooptickle

    NEPA teachers live in a fantasy world that embraces a culture of immense greed. Good for them I say. They did this to themselves. They and their unions hold our kids’ education hostage and demand more…more…MORE. Taxpayers, take a look at your own salary & health plan. Ask yourself why these teachers should be immune to the effects of the national economy. Every strike is as the tantrum of the undisciplined spoiled brat, forever wanting more, never satisfied with what they have.

    • Harrisburg = shooting gallery

      Yes, indeed. Taxpayer contributions have been used to settle sexual misconduct complaints. That would be the money that hard-working, tax-paying citizens are held ransom for, EACH YEAR, to make everything run so very smoothly…………..

      What a crock of sh*t.

  • Robert

    Terrorist attack? What terrorist attack? In the PA capitol? na! Where you getting your info? Wnep would surely report such a thing. Must be fake.

  • Robert

    Problem is good teachers with a handle on their finances are going to get jobs elsewhere. That leaves the one’s that need the union behind to teach your kids.

  • Sounds about white to me

    There’s plenty of jobs out there for minorities. They’re just to lazy to fill them. Government handouts are easier. Ever hear of affirmative action? That’s right, them first and whitey gets whatever is left over. (If anything is left over.)

  • Jon

    I understand you’re trying to make a point but at least be realistic. Their starting salary is 44k and you suggest it be cut in half?.. As a recent college grad owing $56,000 in loans, if you think I’m going to work for 22k per year, especially teaching the kids of today, you’re nuts! The teen working at McDonald’s flipping burgers makes more than that Dave …and they don’t have the stress.

    • REALITY

      I live in Scranton and pay @ $4600 in School taxes every year on a 1300 SQ FT ranch. I have no kids. If parents want their kids to have art & music classes, let THEM pay for it !! Music & Art classes are not needed to graduate, along with the sports programs such as football, baseball, soccer, softball, etc., etc.. CUT THEM ALL !!. Scranton should have filed for bankruptcy years ago and let the teacher’s, fireman’s, & police unions be gone for good. There are plenty of residents in Scranton making $22000 a year, but footing the bills for a greedy and corrupt city. Also, the County reassessment is way past due. WHERE IS THE LAWSUIT, MAYOR COURTRIGHT ??? The problem is that with all of the corruption that took place since the last reassessment in the 60s, they would ALL be totally embarrassed by the public actually seeing how many homes in the County are not even on the books to pay taxes, AND YOU ALL KNOW WHOM YOU ARE !!!

    • Robert

      Hey Jon, I drive a septic truck… Smells a little but ya get used to it. I bring home way more than Dave’s recommended starting teacher salary, get excellent benefits/retirement and the best part,.. people have to pay out the nose for what I do and there’s nobody to complain I make too much!.. In case you’re interested ;)

    • Soy Boy Noise

      Jon, have you ever worked in a fast-food environment? No? Try it and then you will have earned the right to post about stress.

      You obviously didn’t do well in math, either. Anyone (teenager to senior citizen) that works at McDonald’s at minimum wage + $.50 earns $7.75 per hour. The typical part-time shift is about 30 hours per week WITHOUT benefits. That means the weekly income before State and Federal taxes is $232.50. A full-time position would mean $310 per week BEFORE taxes, Social Security contributions, and other witholdings. Let’s see, now……….That makes an annual minimum wage salary plus fifty cents per hour to run around $16,120.00. That’s before rent (averages about 6K per year), or mortgage, insurance, groceries, medical insurance, prescriptions, OTC medications, non-food and cleaning items, utilities, heating/cooling, and transportation fees.

      Learn to add, Jon. Live out there for a few years on 16K per year JUST BECAUSE you were denied higher education or were mainstreamed through the ridiculous “Special Ed” system (add $20K per child, per year for that little pigeon hole). You probably can’t do without your Starcuck’s $4.75 peppermint mocha java latte with soy and, therefore, would never live within normal means. Moron.

    • Stephen

      Hey Soy Boy Noise,… I think I hear your welfare check calling. Why don’t you stop whining and collect what others have worked so hard providing your worthless lazy butt. Lemmie hear you cry some more pathetic boy! :)

  • S. Corv. S.

    Let the state take over this dumpster fire. And what about the”mechanic” who did nothing but was paid 1 million dollars over ten years? how many other “mechanics” were on the payroll that we don’t know about and why do these rascals get to hide? how about some names and re-payment plan details ?! this is sick and just shows GREED on so many levels

    • Harrisburg = shooting gallery

      Better yet, let each locality deal with how they’re going to educate the residents’ children, or not. Education should be the responsibility of the PARENTS and not the neighbors’ hard-earned income, particularly when many of the neighbors do not have children.

      Home school. Private school, Parochial school. All three, absolutely. Public school? It’s laughable, and anyone whose salary STARTS at 44K per year should be grateful to have a job. Get rid of the union members and let all of the union “brothers and sisters” pay their own ways in this culture.

  • TONY

    Originally the School Board was 19 million in debt. But watch, now that they passed this 157 million Budget, by the end of this School Year they’ll be 38 million in the hole. GET RID OF THE UNION !!!

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