School board eyes cost-cutting measures following negative budget approval
By Jamie Wiggan
Having passed a negative budget last month, administrators are working to bridge the financial gap before the year closes out.
Looking to weed out unnecessary expenses, the board approved a transportation review and an operational efficiency study on July 23.
The transportation review — contracted through the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) at a cost of $5,000 — will examine the school’s current busing system and propose a more efficient alternative.
Business Manager Kimberly Puskarich said she was told by a PASBO official the study could save the district as much as $1 million annually.
The district’s 2020-21 budget allocates more than $2.7 million for transportation services.
A $3,713 contract for data-driven budgeting software will suggest further cost-cutting measures for the district.
Eric Brandenburg, business consultant, said the software sifts through a comprehensive range of data, identifying budgetary strengths and weaknesses across the board.
“Every dollar counts,” he said.
The software, 5Cast, is produced by Illinois-based Forecast5 Analytics, which specializes in services for public schools.
The district is introducing new English and math curricula in efforts to catch up with state academic targets, of which all three schools currently fall short.
The board approved Wonders for English Learners (grade K-2) and Eureka Math (grades K-9) during the July 23 meeting.
Already in place for grades 3-6, Sto-Rox educators say introducing the language programming to earlier grades will boost early reading progress.
“It’s ranked high in alignment, rigor and teachability,” said Mike Amick, curriculum director.
The new Eureka Math contract will meanwhile provide a consistent framework for math instruction from kindergarten to ninth grade.
Amick said the program emphasizes debriefing and fluency testing to ensure students firmly grasp each new concept.
“Every single lesson that the teachers teach includes fluency lessons,” he said.
Funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will cover the $68,580 cost of the new English programming, while the $24,640 needed for the math programming will be drawn from the general fund.
Both new programming initiatives were outlined in improvement plan proposals recently adopted by the board for the upcoming academic year. The plans, targeting the Primary Center and Junior-Senior High School, are required by the state under the PDE’s rollout of the Every Child Succeeds Act of 2018.
Approved July 23, a 20-year contract with the Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA) will ensure the district doesn’t lose tax revenue on a new office building where the housing authority will soon make its home.
Under development at the site of the former Eat’n Park restaurant on Chartiers Avenue, the new building was assisted by state monies to bring new development to McKees Rocks.
Exempt from school district taxes as a subsidiary of Allegheny County, the ACHA will instead voluntarily contribute $14,905.69 annually — roughly equal to the annual tax amount paid on the previous building.
Also named on the agreement, the McKees Rocks Council approved the proposal during its July 13 business meeting.
The newly renovated Sto-Rox High School football field will be home to the Pittsburgh Flag Football Association every Sunday through Oct. 18.
As per an agreement approved by the school board July 23, the association will cover the custodian costs and pay a nominal fee.
Athletic Director LaRoi Johnson said the club is interested in making a permanent home at Sto-Rox and will provide volunteer options for students and paying jobs for the community.