NEWTOWN SQUARE–The Marple Newtown School Board voted to adopt the $70 million 2013-14 preliminary school budget at Tuesday night's special school board meeting. The vote passed 6-1 with School Board Director John McDevitt holding the lone nay.
Included in the preliminary $70 million budget is a projected 3.75 percent tax increase. According to Business Administrator Driscoll from a previous meeting, the total exceptions the district will apply for will be approximately 3 percent.
Two residents stood up before the final vote for the preliminary budget adoption, urging school board directors to pass the preliminary budget on Tuesday night.
Former school board director and Marple Township resident Dana Kauffman urged the board to look into the PSERS (Public School Employees' Retirement System) the Act 1 exception.
"The irony to me is that the exception doesn't even cover our PSERS burden," said Kauffman. "I don't see this as the responsibility of Marple Newtown or public school students, or event teachers. It's my opinion that each district should ask for this exception because it's the responsibility of everyone in Pennsylvania."
Kauffman added that the new high school renovation and administration building has been great but "the time has come for the district to focus on programs and the academics."
School Board President Kathryn Chandless responded that she and Superintendent Merle Horowitz spoke with the heads of the PTOs in the district to come up with a priority list on programs that need to be focused on each school, and forming a committee of parents to work with the administration on that.
Driscoll stated one of the biggest factors that may change the preliminary budget numbers is healthcare costs for employees and whether the district joins a healthcare consortium with the Delaware County self-insurance trust or not.
School Board officials also voted, 5-2, to hire a consultant to advise the school board directors in the Delaware County healthcare consortium at a cost not to exceed $10,000. School Board Vice President Nancy Galbraith and School Board Director Sherry-Lee McAuliffe voted against the motion.
School Board Director Jim Lanzalotto said the purpose of the hire is really to help the district make a decision on joining the trust.
"It's a significant decision for this school district and school districts all over," said Lanzalotto. "Because of the nature of health insurance claims and costs, we don't have enough information to make that decision. We want someone to come in who is impartial and a third party to advise us on the viability of this plan. And just give us more knowledge and information so we can make a decision that's not rushed and that's done intelligently based on what we need and not what some folks think we need."
Driscoll said budget workshop sessions may be scheduled by the board if necessary. The district aims to approve the final budget sometime in April or May with June as the latest.