New Castle News

April 13, 2012

Union looking at budget shortfall

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Union school district’s superintendent hopes to avoid major cuts or a tax increase for next school year.

Last year at this time, the board faced a $750,000 deficit, resulting in the layoffs of one administrator, three teachers and three aides.

In preliminary budget discussions, the projected shortfall for the 2012-13 budget is about $250,000, according to Dr. Alfonso “Butch” Angelucci, superintendent.

“The cuts made last year are reflected in this year’s proposed budget,” he said.

A budget workshop is planned for Wednesday, prior to the board’s 7 p.m. meeting.

“We’re in the beginning stages of formulating a budget,” said Samantha Laverty, business manager/board secretary, adding, “There are various items still outstanding that can drastically change this current budget.”

The district is in the process of receiving bids for vendor contracts and insurance, Laverty said, noting 70 percent of budget expenditures are salaries and benefits, with the remainder going to transportation, building and grounds, insurance, legal matters and supplies.

The administration will make the final cuts before introducing a budget at the May board meeting.

“The state decreasing our revenue calls for difficult decisions sometimes, but we’re in a better position than last year,” Angelucci said. “That $750,000 was troubling to us so we rolled up our sleeves to work hard at this.”

Meanwhile, how the board votes Wednesday on a proposed five-year lease for shale drilling may affect the deficit.

Angelucci proposes the board recommend an agreement with Texas-based Hilcorp in Houston to lease 48 acres at $3,300 an acre. If approved, the revenue from that venture would be $150,000, he explained. The district also would realize a 17 percent royalty fee should the company drill there, he noted.

Four visitors opposed to the lease proposal attended this week’s meeting, but only one person addressed the board.

Union Township resident Richard Book, who also distributed literature concerning drilling, discussed his concerns regarding increased truck traffic, decreases in property value and the possibility of toxins in water.

Previously, Angelucci pointed out that the agreement maintains well drilling must be done at least 500 feet from buildings and utility lines, and upon completion, the land must be restored to as near its original contour as possible.

The land targeted includes 12.5 acres of school farm property off Route 224 near Burger King. The remaining acreage is behind the campus, extending toward Route 224.

“Funding through the lease agreement could significantly decrease any shortfall in the 2012-13 budget,” Angelucci said.

(Contact Lugene Hudson at (724) 654-6651, extension 620, or email: lhudson@ncnewsonline.com)