Corry School Board Approves District Budget, Lowers Tax by $1 Mi - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Corry School Board Approves District Budget, Lowers Tax by $1 Million

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While school school districts across our region are struggling to make ends meet, the Corry Area School Board approved the district's budget on Monday night, managing to lower taxes by $1 million while adding programs to the schools.

The final budget totaled $30.58 million for 2014-2015. It's about a half percent up from last year, but residents in three counties that the district covers - Erie, Warren, and Crawford counties - will see a tax decrease between five to eight percent.

 "The board conscientiously tried to reduce the amount of taxes paid locally, we have a very high taxing district," said Bill Nichols, the Corry district's superintendent. "But really, it was accomplished because we've had a declining population and we've reduced staff according to our population which is of course where the cost is - administrators or teachers."

"Declining enrollment, it's a trend in our area. Not just Corry but in Northwest Pennsylvania,"said Matt Patterson, principal of Corry Elementary School. "So there's a great disparity in the size of classes coming through that has direct impact to what we do in our district," he said.

According to Nichols, the number of households have stayed fairly constant over the past 15-20 years, but the district has seen a 33 percent  decrease in students.

In March, the board voted to close two elementary schools in the district - Spartensburg and Conelway - schools the board said were only filled at half capacity. But according to Nichols, the closings make little impact on the budget.

"Between the two schools, there may be little savings the first year but that will not come into play for a while. We kept all staff for both elementary schools," Nichols said.

Board member Doris Gernovich says early incentive retirement incentive plans for teachers have helped in reducing staff costs. There are also six teaching positions between the Spartensburg and Conelway schools that will not be refilled.

It's all part of a multi-year effort to maximize efficiency and adjust the district's staff to the smaller pool of students.

"It's really based on what we've done over the past two or three years. We've taken a serious look at our staffing, reduced where we could, while maintaining the programs," Nichols said. "We've actually increased programs - for example we're bringing back a third foreign language and we're going to double up on Spanish," he said.

"The board has been very efficient and very aggressive. Certainly not afraid to take on new initiatives and look at better ways to provide services to children," Patterson said.


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