2012-03-01 / Local & State

SF Forms Governmental Relations Committee

Committee to meet with local legislators
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

After hearing the pros and possible pitfalls of the proposed state education budget released by Gov. Tom Corbett, the Southern Fulton School Board decided to take action last Tuesday in the formation of a Governmental Relations Committee.

Danny Crouse and Dale Sigel were hand-selected by their fellow board members on a unanimous roll-call vote to serve as committee members. The duo is expected to meet with district Superintendent Kendra Trail in the very near future to devise a list of possible topics for discussion with Rep. Dick Hess and Sen. John Eichelberger Jr.

As noted by Trail earlier in the meeting, the state budget looks to level fund basic education as well as special education.

The district currently employs 21 staff members dedicated solely to special-education needs, which have increased significantly in recent years. As a result, the school is anticipated to spend more than $1.3 million for special education while only receiving state assistance totaling $462,766. The remainder of the unpaid expenses will be covered by local taxpayers, Trail pointed out.

In addition, the superintendent noted the state has eliminated Accountability Block Grant funding, which in the past has aided the kindergarten program as well as helped struggling students in areas such as reading.

Throughout the February 21 meeting, Trail repeatedly made reference to a proposal by the state to eliminate the state formula used in determining daily transportation rates. The formula takes into account the newness of a bus, number of seats, daily miles and students assigned to a route.

Due to rising special needs issues, special transportation for these cases has also been in demand. Currently the district uses five vans and one minibus in comparison to only two vans in 2003-04.

Overall transportation costs for the previous 2010-11 school year were calculated at $826,068. The district is slated to receive just shy of $700K from the state to address its transportation needs next year.

Trail went on to discuss charter school spending, which has cost the district and taxpayers $500K in the last five years as well as facility issues, and the rising costs of gas, electricity and cafeteria operations.

On a positive note, the budget does allow for a large increase to the state employee retirement system, money for the creation of the Keystone Exams and funding that would result in new tools for the evaluation of teachers and administrators.

Crouse mentioned a decrease in student enrollment at Southern Fulton and questioned how much of a deficit that brings to the table during budget preparation. Crouse also urged the need for the county’s three public school districts to come together and look at ways to save money. The topic of rising fuel costs and a consortium was mentioned, while other ideas tossed around in neighboring counties include additional furloughs, pay to play or participate, reconfiguring transportation routes, the coordination of sports schedules and the sharing or consolidation of office and administrative personnel.

Southern Fulton has already enacted several means of savings, such as tracking and better aligning its transportation routes and coordinating transportation for sporting teams on a junior and senior high level. On Tuesday, the board also agreed to a first reading of Policy 707.2 entitled Property, Athletic Field Advertising. Trail stated the topic had been previously discussed at a board training event. She was not able to give cost specifics and said she would be discussing the issue of contracts between the district and potential advertisers with their solicitor.

Crouse mentioned establishing a flat fee for a certain amount of advertising space, which would possibly eliminate the need for solicitor fees and contracts. He was the lone board member to dissent during the roll-call vote on the policy readProbation ing.

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