Cranberry won’t hike taxes above 3.3 percent index

Contributing writer

Cranberry School Board members approved a resolution Monday night that the district will not raise taxes above the state-set index of 3.3 percent next year.

And while that is a positive move, district business manager Henry Karg cautioned that the district shouldn’t feel “comfortable” about the financial outlook.

The state’s Act 1, known as the Taxpayer Relief Act, requires school districts to take a keen look at its projected budget for the coming year. If a district anticipates it will need a heftier tax hike than the state’s 3.3 percent threshold, a tentative budget outline must be completed by the end of this year.

School budgets are regularly adopted by July 1.

Should a district not sign on to an Act 1 resolution and hike property taxes higher than the 3.3 percent, that would require either a Pennsylvania Department of Education exception or voter approval.

“By this resolution, we will abide by that 3.3 percent if we have to raise taxes next year,” Karg told the board.

After the school board meeting, Karg explained, “We’ve managed to do fine over the last couple of years but there is no guarantee in future years. The big mystery is a big drop in (property) assessments and while historically Cranberry’s assessment values have gone up, that could change. We can’t get comfortable.”

Cranberry School District budgets have been kept lean through the efforts of the school board and the administration, noted Karg.

“We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had to go beyond that because the administration and board have kept us within our means. I’m hoping for that this year,” said the business manager.

School is winner

Cranberry Elementary School principal Robert Horner said the school earned the Title 1 Distinguished School Award for the 2016-17 school year and will be honored at the Improving School Performance Conference set for January in Pittsburgh.

Horner said the school met certain objectives, including test participation, promotion rate, closing the achievement gap for all students and closing the achievement gap for under-performing students. In addition, the youths were listed in the top five percent for English language arts and math proficiency.

“Meeting the academic needs of students in the identified sub groups has been a goal for all teachers (and) … the success of the instructional staff has brought honor to the school and student success,” Horner said.

The elementary school is also eligible to be a national Title 1 Distinguished School.

Eagle project approved

Bo Myers, a Cranberry ninth grader and a member of Boy Scout Troop 17 in Oil City, was given permission to construct two large picnic tables with benches outside the school. There will be no cost to the district and the project will get underway quickly, he said.

Myers, son of Kelly and Fred Myers, is doing the project as part of his Eagle Scout requirements. The new tables and benches will replace deteriorated ones now in place.

Final work tally

Superintendent Bill Vonada told the board the final cost for an extensive heating/air conditioning project at the Cranberry Middle and Elementary schools was $956,598.

The district had budgeted $964,000 for the work.

“It came in a little bit under what we projected,” he said.

The board also handled several personnel matters Monday. Here is a rundown:

Bonnie Bell was hired as a part-time cafeteria worker/monitor at Cranberry Elementary.

Nathan McLaughlin was hired as head elementary wrestling coach.

Scott Beach was named assistant elementary wrestling coach.

Chris Russell was named junior high wrestling coach. He previously was an assistant coach.

Wendy Switzer was hired as assistant junior high cheerleading coach.

Daniel O’Brien was hired as temporary eighth-grade science teacher.

Tenure was approved for Preston Yoder.

Benjamin Hogue was named assistant junior high wrestling coach.

A sub-contract for Next Step Therapy Inc. to provide speech and language services was approved.