School Board Prioritizes Items for Budget Cuts; Weber Says Staff Cut Resolution “Precautionary”

April 24, 2024

RUSSELL, Pa. – As the Warren County School District budget deadline approaches, the Board of Directors has prioritized where it thinks cuts should be made.

During its Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, WCSD Director of Business Services Jim Grosch presented a spreadsheet that showed a list of potential cuts ranked by board members’ willingness to eliminate that item from the budget. The top 14 items would save the district $1.452 million in expenditures, just shy of the primary goal of saving $1.5 million.

“Our goal was to get to 1.5, and then the administration said that we would draw a line in terms of where we wanted to end,” WCSD Superintendent Gary Weber said. “The last one (cut), being the reading specialist and that gets us to 1.452. And I had a conversation with Mr. Grosch today and I feel confident that I can find the other $48,000 to get to 1.5 there in the budget.”

Grosch said that “without any other movement” the district is looking at a $4.5 million deficit next year. A maximum tax increase (4.2995 mills) would generate an additional $1.7 million in revenue, leaving a $2.8 million deficit.

“It doesn’t include any other contingencies, and it doesn’t include any other adjustment in the budget,” Grosch said. “So (with contingencies), we’d be at $1.4 million even if there was a maximum millage increase.”

A maximum millage increase would mean a home with an appraised value of $120,000 (assessed value of $60,000) would see its taxes increase by $21.50 per month or $258 per year.

Board members were asked to rank each item with a 0 (Can’t live with cutting it), 1 (Don’t want to cut, but), or 2 (Willing to cut). The 14 items before the established cutoff line all ranked 1.1 or higher based on the average score.

Those 14 items are Moving Crew ($100,000, score 1.9), Dean of Students ($100,000, score 1.9), Psychologist ($100,000, score 1.8), Technology Budget ($340,000, score 1.8), Textbook/Online Resources Budget ($100,000, score 1.8), CSN Budget ($50,000, score 1.8), Purchasing STEM Supplies from Title ($50,000, score 1.7), Elimination Late Bus Run ($12,750, score 1.6), Electronics Program WCCC ($100,000, score 1.4), Librarian ($100,000, score 1.2), School Social Worker ($100,000, score 1.2), Middle Level Instructor ($100,000, score 1.1), Middle Level Instructor ($100,000, score 1.1), and Reading Specialist ($100,000, score 1.1).

Board President Paul Mangione said the thing that “caught his eye” was putting a number to things like a 4-day week or moving high school students to one or two schools.

“We already know where things are headed with our budget,” Mangione said. “So at least this year, we’re able to dodge the bullet or kick the can whichever way you want to look at it. But I really don’t think we’re going to have that necessarily going into next year and so sometime between now and next year, we need to decide out of those tough, tough decisions, which ones we want to look at more and which ones we just absolutely can’t live with.”

Some of those items the board ranked included a 4-day work week ($420,000, score 1.0), Moving all Music/Choir/Arts to WCCC ($200,000, score 0.9), Sending All 10-12 Grade Students to WAHS ($1.235 Million, score 0.8), Sending All 9-12 Grade Students to WAHS and YHS ($905,000, score 0.6), Eliminate All Non-Athletic Supplementals ($543,777, score 0.6), Sending All 9-12 Grade Students to WAHS and EHS ($876,000, score 0.4), Cutting Athletic Transportation ($269,000, score 0.4), and Reinstituting Half Day Kindergarten ($400,000, score 0.3).

Board member John Wortman said he “could not support” a budget that chooses to cut staff over buildings.

“I just would like to share my deep disappointment that we have a possibility here to save our taxpayers, just over $1.2 million by moving all grades 10 through 12 to Warren Area High School, and rather than elect that option, we are going to look at removing from the budget personnel, certificated personnel, resources for our students, and programming. And I will not support that when this budget comes to the board for consideration.”

Mangione added that these cuts alone will not eliminate the budget deficit.

“We’re not talking about raising taxes by one or two mills,” Mangione said. “We’re talking about raising taxes by the maximum index that the state will allow us. So, you know, we’re talking about tax increases of four to six mills every year that we choose not to act on some of these concepts. So let me be very clear about that too.”

If the board chooses to fund the 21st Century Program, two additional items will be added to the list, cutting a Special Education Teacher and implementing a 4-day week.

“I do have concerns about that. And my main concern is just timing of it,” Weber said. “The four-day work week obviously moved its way up towards the top of the list. Just from a timing perspective, I do have concerns just about getting there in time to start the school year. There’s all the labor agreements and stuff that we’d have to do and we’re just getting late in the game to be able to do that.”


During a special meeting on Monday, the board approved a resolution that paved the way for $2.5 million in staff furloughs, if necessary.

The board voted 4-2 to approve the measure with Tammi Holden, Kevin Lindvay, Mangione, and Dan Sullivan in favor and Cody Brown and Wortman against. Board members Savanna Cochran, Mary Passinger, and Stephanie Snell were absent.

“The Warren County School District may be forced to reduce staff including professional employees providing direct instruction to students in the 2024-2025 school year in order to have any hope of presenting a balanced budget,” the resolution states. “If the Warren County School District cannot reduce professional employees for economic reasons, it may be forced to eliminate or alter programming which has already been reduced to minimal levels.”

According to the resolution, the district anticipates a maximum of nine professional employees providing direct instruction to students, a maximum of two administrative staff, and a maximum of 12 professional staff who could be suspended under this action.

“The Warren County School District believes the proposed suspensions will impact academic programs as follows: increase class sizes, changes in elective programming, reduction of direct services to students, reduction in curriculum resources, limitations on virtual course offerings. If the proposed suspensions for economic reasons are not undertaken the academic programs will likely be affected as follows: elimination of programs in accordance with Section 1124,” the resolution states. “The Warren County School District will take the following actions to minimize any negative impact on student achievement: filling any vacancies with highly qualified teachers.”

Weber said the district was advised by its solicitor to put this resolution forward 60 days before the final budget is approved in case the district finds it must make suspensions for economic reasons.

“The goal is to not get to this point,” Weber said. “I mean, that’s the overall goal and I think we’re in pretty, pretty good shape to not get to this point. But our solicitor notified me that we would be in good standing to get this done 60 days in advance. So this is precautionary.”

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