Board explores ways to cut spending, increase revenue in budget

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Budget discussions continued during the Punxsutawney Area School Board’s monthly committee meeting Wednesday.

Business Manager Susan H. Robertson said the majority of the district’s budget is fixed costs, so the administration needs the board and the public to brainstorm ways to save money. She also said that department budgets are being reviewed at this time.

Board members received handouts with suggestions on how to reduce spending budget and increase revenues for the district.

One of the suggested reductions is to charge for parking, Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said, to which board member Bob Pascuzzo asked if that would include staff as well.

Board Vice-President Francis J. Molinaro said the board would have to look at all options on who should pay to park.

Wolfe said that wouldn’t be fair to make staff pay, because the students have the bus to ride as an alternative, while staff does not.

Board President Gary Conrad said he would welcome any cost-saving suggestions from the public and staff, and Wolfe said there will be an area set up on his Principal’s Page on the district Web site for anyone to make suggestions.

Conrad also said the district could save $7,000 by eliminating the behind-the-wheel portion of driver’s education and just have the classroom session.

In other business:

• Charles Allessie, a Punxsy resident and former board member, spoke about the amount of money the district must pay for cyber-school students.

“School districts should take a stand by not paying for cyber-school students,” he said, adding that he can’t believe the district paid more than $700,000 for cyber-school students this year.

Solicitor David Young said if the district doesn’t pay the tuition for the cyber-school students, the state could withhold subsidies. But Allessie said the district should challenge that in court.

Wolfe said in a recent meeting he attended with senators and legislators in Harrisburg, everyone has the same complaint that Allessie pointed out about cyber-school.

Young said the money the district spends on cyber students is to be used to educate children and pay the tuition equivalent to what the district pays to educate a student.

Wolfe said he also viewed a discussion on PCN as to why it costs $18,000 per student, when cyber-school has no buildings and none of the expenses that the district has.

Young said research shows that some students spend fewer than an hour per day on the computer.

“If a student uses our cyber-school once, it’s ready, we’ll be able to monitor how much time a student spent doing actual school work on their computer,” Wolfe said.

Allessie also asked if the private schools such as SS.C.D. or PCS receive money from the state with vouchers. Wolfe replied that the bill is held up in the legislature and has not yet been voted on.

• Cindy Depp-Hutchinson also spoke to the board, asking that the district hire more male elementary education teachers.

“There’s only one male elementary teacher that she knows of in the district,” she said. “A male elementary school teacher would be a good role model for the boys especially, and the girls, too.”

Molinaro suggested that the reason there are more female elementary teachers is that during the interview process, women outshine men most of the time.

Depp-Hutchinson also complimented the administrators for being so diligent whenever any type of a threat is made toward the students.

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Possible Ways to Reduce the Budget

• Reduce kindergarten back to half days or every other day.
• Reduce the number of field trips.

• Reduce the number of sports.
• Reduce training table meals during training camp.
• Reduce the number of ticket takers.

Driver’s Ed
• Offer classroom only — No Behind the Wheel.

• Delay scheduled rotation.

• Decline proposed third lease.
• Move the Classrooms For the Future (CFF) coach to a classroom teacher position — through attrition.

Ways to Increase Revenue
• Pay to play athletics and other extra curricular activities.
• Pay to park
• Pay for summer school.
• Pay user fee for laptops.