Kearney discusses budget challenges

St. Marys Area School District Superintendent Ann Kearney addressed budget concerns during Thursday evening’s SMASD Board of Directors workshop.“We are beginning the preparation for the 2011-12 budget with extreme caution due to the continued economic concerns of the area, the state, the nation and for that matter the world,” Kearney said. “With the medial warning of the state education budget cuts that could be broad and deep, Cindy FinGado and I have set forth the timeline for our budget development. We have just completed our 2009-10 audit.”Kearney noted the following items have helped keep the district frugally sound at this point.Among the items were the reduction of faculty over the past two years in which the district has absorbed 10 professional positions and 3.5 support staff positions; the energy policy which reduced energy consumption last year; the lower cost of natural gas and the mild winter last year; the watchful eye of expenditures and the state coming through with the costing out study increase for the school district’s basic subsidy.This same basic subsidy is expected to be reduced next year. Kearney said the state may revert back to the 2008 figures.The Accountability Block Grant is also likely to be reduced or eliminated. This grant consists of $300,000 the district utilizes to fund its kindergarten program.According to Kearney, other districts facing the same dilemma are considering cutting back their all-day kindergarten to a half-day program.The stimulus funds, totaling $700,000, will be used up after this year.The Education Assistance Program (EAP), used to pay for tutors, is expected to be reduced or eliminated. Kearney explained that at the beginning of the year EAP funding was expected to be $78,000 but was slowly reduced to $55,000.For more on this story see the Dec. 3 edition of The Daily Press.