SMASD passes 2012 budget

ST. MARYS - The St. Marys Area School District Board of Directors unanimously voted in favor of the district's 2012 - 2013 general fund budget at Monday's meeting of the Board. A preliminary version of the budget was first presented for review in March, withexpenditures totaling $24,339,949 and representing a 1.78 percent ($420,576) increase from the 2011-2012 budget, where expenditures totaled $23,919,373. During the March meeting, superintendent Ann Kearney said the increase is the result of a number of factors including higher salaries, a two percent increase in insurance costs and increasing utility costs, as well as contractual obligations involving transportation and ARAMARK. "It's mainly contractual things and utility costs go up, school supplies, everything seems to increase," Kearney said. The tax levies included in the budget are as follows: 32.35 mills on real estate; 63.6 mills assessed value of oil, gas, and minerals; 1,450 mills on occupational assessment; a $10 local services tax shared with Fox, Jay, and Benezette townships; a $5 local services tax from the City of St. Marys; a one percent earned income tax to be shared with all municipalities; a $5 Section 679 per capita tax for residents of all municipalities; and a $5 Section 511 per capita tax for residents of all municipalities. Monday's meeting also included comments from the district's administrators, who discussed the successes of the concluded school year and plans for the upcoming term.Christine Kuhar, principal of Fox Township and Bennetts Valley Elementary schools, said, "Every day of summer is a march towards the first day of school."Kuhar said the introduction of new technology including, Smart Boards into each classroom, as well as iPads into special education instruction, has both intrigued and invigorated students and teachers.Kuhar said she would be working with leadership team in determining "what next year is going to look like." Kuhar said stronger efforts will be undertaken next year for students at and beyond benchmarks to "ensure we are enriching and growing the higher end learner as well." Kuhar also emphasized strengthening students moral character and extolled the virtues of the outreach initiatives conducted this past year at Bennetts Valley and Fox Township Elementary. "Our givebacks to our community and our world have been very strong again with that building of good moral and social character for our kids. It's amazing to absolutely see the compassion and kindness from our kids and we boost that and we applaud it and we want it to grow to show that giving back does so much good for a child's self-esteem and their own self-identity and in turn reflects their good character as well," Kuhar said. Kuhar said that sometimes the "good deeds land where they need to" as demonstrated by the story she shared of petty officer Brian Noel, a U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan who expressed his gratitude for the schools' Letters from Home program. "I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by petty officer Brian Noel who was stationed in Afghanistan and he called me because he had received a package of the Letters from Home. He called because he wanted to say thank you for us for doing that," Kuhar said. Noel had a local connection and was coming to the area on a rest and relaxation period over the recent Memorial Day holiday. Noel arranged to visit the school, bringing with him a flag which had been flown in Parwan, Afghanistan as Kuhar explained "in dedication to Bennetts Valley Elementary." "In honor and in thanks for doing something so simple as drawing a picture and sending a letter. He came to the school it was absolutely amazing completely touching overwhelming," Kuhar said. Kuhar added the flag will be framed and kept on display at the school. Other principals like Jim Wortman of SMAMS and Josh Williams of SMAHS emphasized failure prevention. Wortman said that failure prevention beings on day one adding that three percent or 20 out of 577 students had failed the past school year. Williams said that the goal to reduce failure rates while successful in the first two quarters of the year, "kind of tapered off."