It's important to give credit where credit is due.
The Keystone Central School District administration and board have - and we're sure through an agonizing process - prepared very well for the ongoing budget crises, and over the long term, we would add.
Based on the board's approval of a no-tax-increase, $64.5 million budget this past Thurs-day night, it's safe to say the board is banking on a restoration of some state subsidy due to the apparent change of heart by the state Legislature on basic education funding.
Keystone has - over the long-term and contrary to a number of other public school districts across Pennsylvania - kept a healthy fund balance, a contingency account, if you will.
This time around - for the 2012-2013 school year - however, it's using a good chunk of that fund and other rainy day money to cover deficits.
Of note in the proposed budget:
r The administration intends to draw down $350,000 from the district's fund balance;
r Use $400,00 in dedicated funding from a special account designed to soften increased retirement expenses;
r Pull $400,000 from a designated capital fund designed to cover building improvements or repairs.
If the state Legislature restores some education funding, it's likely Keystone will put that money back into its fund balance. Thus the eight votes Thursday night for no tax increase?
Meanwhile, Keystone will close three buildings and eliminate 14 teaching positions. And, it looks like the board may close Sugar Valley Elementary School on the basis of not being able to justify the expense of educating 50 kids at one school at such a high cost. (SV has two teachers and some 50 students and duplicates educational offerings at the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School.)
Don't get us wrong. We don't like any of this, especially cutting teachers and closing neighborhood schools.
We can easily fathom the closing of the administration building and the technology center at the old Flemington Elementary School and movement of staff to the high school technology wing.
We reported this Friday but it's worth repeating: The teaching positions lost will be elementary physical education; elementary music; middle school special education; class size reduction in Sugar Valley; class size reduction at Dickey Elementary; middle school English; middle school reading; Mill Hall kindergarten; Dickey Elementary first grade; Lamar Township third and fourth grades; the Robb Elementary enrichment program; high school social studies; high school English, and library services.
Dear readers and parents, this is a diminishment of education ... a severe blow to your child's opportunity and ability to learn and grow, all in the name of money. And yes, too many parents are failing their responsibilities to their kids and to society by not valuing the education of their kids - making investment in education even all the more important as a priority of taxpayer dollars.
In the past 5 or 6 years, Keystone - facing enormous financial constraints - has cut multiple teaching positions, nearly all through attrition but at a pace that we believe goes beyond the decline in student population and will impact the quality of education delivered in a district where the number of economically disadvantaged students is very high in comparison.
It has also reduced the number of principals so that nearly all of them are responsible for two schools, drastically cut its athletic/sports budget and eliminated coaching positions ... and more.
Again for the next school year, it's good-bye to bricks and mortar in order to keep educating students the top priority, including maintaining full-day kindergarten.
Keystone has been fiscally responsible, but it and many other districts that have been accountable to taxpayers cannot continue to be a punching bag for the state's shortfalls.