The Peters Township Board of Education posted a $49.8 million budget for 2011-12 Monday night, but the majority of the discussion centered around , on whether the budget would allow for the hiring of an additional third grade teacher, and regarding planned renovations of the athletic fields.
Dozens of Pleasant Valley parents, along with residents who live near the school addressed the two issues, and spoke for more than an hour and a half about their concerns. The board meeting, where the budget was posted took less than half an hour.
Leading the group of parents with concerns was Anita Knaack, a parent of a second grader, who said word has been circulating among parents and teachers that third graders will suffer next year without an additional classroom.
“Third grade is a big step up for students, and it’s my concern along with others, that students will not get their individual needs met," she said. "I wonder how these decisions will affect my son and the classroom as a whole. It’s my concern that my son will not get his individual needs met.”
Knaack also asked why part of the money from the proposed bond issue for the athletic fields at Pleasant Valley can’t be used for an additional teacher.
A number of other parents also spoke to the same issue, saying that they were concerned about students getting proper attention in a larger class setting.
Addressing the issue, Superintendent Nina Zetty said that no final decisions have been made about a third grade teacher at the school.
“Currently, class size at PV Elementary in second grade is 23 students," she said. "If we do not add an additional classroom there, class size will be 26 to 27 students in a classroom, so there will be three more students in the classroom.
Zetty added that projections for third grade class size in other elementary schools, such as Bower Hill's is approximately the same.
“We’ve tried to keep kindergarten and first grade (class size) around 22 students, and after that there is no research to support class size different for our students,” she said.
“For budgetary purposes, if our board should decide not to hire additional staffing, and be sure that no one gets laid off, the class size will be 26 to 27.”
The board also told Knaack that when the bond issue is passed for the field improvements, the district is not allowed to use the money for hiring of staff.
Knaack and other parents who spoke said they plan to attend the next budget and finance committee meeting on June 13 to plead their case for another teacher.
Others in the large group said they had concerns about the proposed athletic field improvements at the school, which will include lighting, a public address system and new parking spaces for visitors.
Mr. and Mrs. John Luckhardt, Bill Wood and Mary Korsmeyer—all residents of Highland Drive—expressed their concerns about noise from the PA system and lights.
“The lights will be shining directly into my living room," Korsmeyer said. She and the others asked the board’s building and grounds committee to reconsider the project.
Residents of other nearby areas expressed similar concerns. Michael Aburachis, of Venetia, questioned the wisdom of floating a bond issue while the board struggles with balancing a budget.
The Peters Township Planning Commission last week approved the plan with stipulations that have to be met.
During the regular portion of the meeting, building and grounds Chairperson Lori Cuervo said no other committee meetings are planned before the board approves the bond issue, but said her committee and the project architect are complying with township noise and lighting ordinances.
“We have been listening and we plan to become a good neighbor,” she said.
Business manager Dan Solomon said the board will likely vote on the Pleasant Valley bond issue at its June 27 meeting. The cost of the project is $2.5 million, but the board will likely float a bond issue higher than that amount, which will go into the Capital Reserve Fund for future projects.
The 2011-12 budget totals $49,892,752, compared to the current budget of $48.8 million. If approved as is, the budget would translate into a 1.3 mill increase in property taxes. Also introduced as part of the budget package was a technology budget of $795,903, and a Capital Reserve Fund budget of $3,862,217.
The budget will be finalized at the board’s June 27 meeting.
Budget and finance committee Chairman said the board plans to trim the budget to be less than the posted figure during its upcoming committee meetings.