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Where’s Money Coming From?, Pottsgrove Director Asks

POTTSTOWN PA – Two department heads in the Pottsgrove School District, who proposed budget increases of 9.9 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively, for their operations during the next academic year, on Tuesday (March 12, 2013) were effectively asked ‘Where’s the money coming from?’ by the former president of the Board of School Directors.

Where's Money Coming From?, Pottsgrove Director AsksTechnology and Communications Director Michael Wagman discussed a $1.02 million budget, up from $926,000 this year, and Facilities and Physical Plants Director Michael Katzenmoyer offered a $1.7 million spending plan and suggested another $302,000 in capital improvement projects.

Under state law Pottsgrove can, at most, raise property taxes abut 3.5 percent during the 2013-2014 budget cycle, director Michael Neiffer noted during the board’s meeting at Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School, Buchert Road. “Where are we cutting” the money necessary “to pay for your increases?,” Neiffer wondered aloud after Wagman’s presentation ended.

Neiffer didn’t deny the importance of either proposal, and acknowledged technology expenses “might be” the district’s best investment in 2014. He also recognized Katzenmoyer had “no control” over the current year’s 33-percent, or $1 per gallon, increase in the cost of fuel oil used to heat Pottsgrove Middle School.

And Neiffer said he had no doubt the proposals were what administrators considered best for the district and its students, but added, “I’m just telling you we have to be able to afford it.” Other directors nodded their heads in agreement, and asked to have the proposals resubmitted via e-mail, accompanied by alternatives to reduce the budgets if needed.

Wagman’s technology budget envisions replacing computer hardware purchased with state grants during 2008-2009, expanding the district’s use of classroom document cameras, updating and enhancing equipment and infrastructure in the Pottsgrove Middle School laboratory for science, technology, engineering and math, and getting a jump on tasks that would enable one-to-one computerized learning in Pottsgrove High School by 2015.

The largest chunk of Katzenmoyer’s facilities budget covers utility costs like the oil, as well as electricity, water and sewer fees. They account for $1.21 million or 71 percent of his expenses next year.

Under capital improvements, Katzenmoyer presented a wish list of items submitted by principals, department heads and others, including $50,000 for landscaping work on the hill in front of the North Hanover Street middle school, $33,000 to improve the softball facilities at Lower Pottsgrove Elementary, $20,000 to rebuild the ticket booth entrance to the high school stadium, and $23,000 for improving the uniform laundry at the high school.

Of high importance to Superintendent Shellie Feola, she said, is the need to purchase a new or upgrade an existing radio communications system between each school building and the district office for emergency uses.

Those items and others would be paid, if approved by directors, from the district’s capital fund and are not part of the regular operating budget.

Related (to the Pottsgrove School District 2013-’14 budget):

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ meeting of March 12):

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