Chartiers-Houston adopts budget, furloughs six teachers

June 16, 2014
Spanish teacher Teresa Hess, center, embraces librarian Colleen Mangan following the Chartiers-Houston School Board meeting, where they were furloughed, Monday. - Karen Mansfield / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Six Chartiers-Houston teachers are losing their jobs in an effort to help bridge a $1.7 million gap in the school district’s 2014-15 budget.

The school board Monday adopted its 2014-15 budget, which includes a 9.0125-mill increase and calls for the elimination of six instructors.

The budget does not include the district’s annual $50,000 contribution to Chartiers-Houston Community Library. School board president Richard Hall said he has served on the school board for more than three decades and that furloughing the teachers is one of the most difficult things he has had to do.

“I’ve been on the board for 33 years and I’ve never had to experience something like this. This is not a pleasant moment, as a school director or as a member of the community,” he said.

The board voted 7-0 to approve the $17,051,547 budget, which hikes the millage rate to 119.5125. Directors Rodney Whitfield and Fred Rockage did not attend the meeting.

The owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 will pay about $90 more in taxes per year.

“This is tough for everybody on the board and I’m sure everybody in the community to approve this budget, especially with the 9.0125 mill increase, and that doesn’t really compensate for some of the programs we are going to have to bite the bullet on this year. But if we don’t do something to slow down the spending, with no support from Harrisburg, the school district will be broke in two years,” said Hall. “We spent down our fund balance approximately $3 million in the last 3 years. Something has to change, and I’m sure there are a lot of school districts in worse shape than we are.”

Furloughed were: Ryan Kuftic, business education and math teacher; Samuel Poness, health teacher; Teresa Huff, Spanish teacher; Alyson Collins, music teacher; and librarians Colleen Mangan and Sara Taylor.

Following the meeting, Mangan said she believes the school board’s decision will cause “irreparable damage to the community and to the students,” but she was grateful for the chance to work in the district.

“I wanted to thank the school board for the wonderful opportunity they gave me to work at such a good school district. The colleagues that I worked with are irreplaceable. I’m going to miss them a lot, but some of those friendships are not going to ever die because they are lifelong friendships.”

Bill Hill, president of the trustees for Chartiers-Houston Community Library, said he was disappointed with the school board’s decision to eliminate its donation.

“Obviously, I’m very disappointed the board decided to abandon the library, with the likelihood that we’ll have to close unless that revenue is replaced by somebody else, “ he said. “I’m very surprised that they did this without any comment tonight about the specific deletion from their budget.”

Director Hall said after the meeting the school board has donated more than $1.5 million to the library since he has been on the board, and the school board would have had to consider eliminating another teacher if it would have made its annual contribution.

Pension contributions were the largest factor in the budget.

As a result of growing pension contributions and reduced state support, Chartiers-Houston School District experienced budget deficits of over $1 million per year for the past two years, which has depleted over half of its fund balance.

The district’s state-mandated contribution to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System will increase from $397,000 in 2009-10 to $1.49 million in 2014-2015. According to the district, those rates – set by the state of Pennsylvania – are expected to skyrocket to over $2 million per year by 2017.

“Something has to be done,” said Hall.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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