Inside Your Town

Reading School District applauds 2014-15 budget efforts

READING, Pa. - The Reading School District board unanimously passed the general fund budget for 2014-15 in the amount of $226,826,271 on Wednesday night.

The budget includes a 2.89% tax hike that was passed by a narrow 5-4 vote.

Rather than quarreling over minute details, there was praise and even a round of applause by the board and public for the work done on next year's fiscal budget.

"I think it's a great move… When you have the right mindset to all work together you accomplish a lot," said Rebecca Acosta, president of the board.

She also said that doing the budget this year was a "walk in the park" and commended BCIU, the board, and district employees on their work to make it possible.

The budget allows for a principal and assistant principal in every elementary school building, as well as a school nurse in every building and an appropriately staffed district office.

The district will also add approximately 19 additional instructional staff members in order to better support students who need the assistance academically.

Wage adjustments for all employees were also a highlight of possibilities of the 2014-15 budget, but must first go through collective bargaining before increases are made.

In addition to personnel, the budget also allows $1 million for a new mathematics curriculum and textbooks and an additional $3 million to be spent on additional curricular improvements and the materials that accompany it.

The technology in the district will see about $1.7 million in changes, including new laptops with updated systems for all teachers and improved technology in classrooms.

Reading School District is also seeing improvements outside of its walls as there are currently renovations going on at many of the schools with more planned for elementary schools next year.

A million dollars has been set aside for those projects.

Acting Superintendent Dr. John George said he is glad the district now has an accurate picture of its financial situation.

This could, more importantly, help them plan better for the future.

Despite final improvements in the district and recommendations to stick with their current audit firm, the board voted down having Barbacane, Thornton & Company LLP perform the 2013-14 audit due to previous oversights and will begin seeking a new company. 

Numbers are up for more than just finances, as a presentation about the Success Academy at Reading High School by Principal Eric Turman revealed increasing graduation rates. 

Since the program first began in the 2012-13 school year, the graduation rate has increased from 53% to 70%, and hopes to reach its goal of 85% within the next few years.

The program targets students entering or transferring into the high school who are behind in credits.

The board also approved a memorandum between the district and Food Research Action Center (FRAC) that will allow all students to have breakfast next year.

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