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Southeastern PA

Residents angered by sacrifices from Pottstown School District's budget

They are fuming over cuts to special education staff

POTTSTOWN, Pa. - Residents of the Pottstown School District were up in arms Monday night over cuts being made to special education staff while administrators will be receiving increases in salary.

Positions to be cut will include nine aides, one teacher, and one secretary.

Michelle Dougherty, who has a son in the district, said cutting staff is "irresponsible and ineffective" and pointed out that test scores from special education students in the district are well below the state average even with the current staffing ratios.

Dianne Krumm, a resident and volunteer with the Golden Sage program in Pottstown, emphasized the impact that aides have on special education students and said the change she sees in them is "tremendous".

The board did not directly respond to any of the comments made, but encouraged the community to attend more meetings.

"I want to thank the folks for coming out to the meeting tonight and I encourage them to come to some of our committee meetings that are the nuts and bolts as well as get close interaction with the board," said Andrew Kefer, board member.

Also, due to budgetary restrictions, support staff will not be receiving a salary increase for the 2014-15 year which, by the end of the period, will make 39 months without increase.

"I don't know how these people are surviving, but I know that there are many of these people who are working two jobs and maybe have half an hour to eat dinner," said Polly Weand.

"We have to think of the human side of this, they [the support staff] aren't even making the median salary of this community," she said.

Thomas Hylton, board member, agreed but noted that the health benefits and pension the employees receive are "very attractive."

With the budget also comes a 2.9 percent tax increase that many members believe residents cannot afford, but board members feel they must impose the increase to maintain the level of education they offer.

"This mess is handed down to us from a higher authority, however it is our responsibility to deal with the messes," said Ron Williams, board member.

The tax increase is necessary to cover increased debt service for renovations at the Elementary Schools, retirement increases, and an eight-year construction plan for roofs and masonry that total $3,267,889. 

Superintendent Jeffrey Sparagana has made it clear that the district's goal for 2015-16 is a zero tax increase, and that this year's increase will enable that possibility.

Some mid level administrators were given 1.5 percent salary increases.

Overall administrative salaries went down $20,300 from last year to this year.

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