The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Thursday, May 18, 2000


State surplus sets up Stressed 7 for another year of relief funding

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

The state General Assembly has come through for another year of Stressed 7 funding for Farrell schools.

The state budget approved Monday includes $158,000 for Farrell, the same amount the district received the last two years, said state Sen. Robert D. “Bob” Robbins, Salem Township, R-50th District, and state Rep. Michael C. Gruitza, Hermitage, D-7th District.

School Superintendent Richard R. Rubano Jr. said Monday he didn’t know what the status of the Stressed 7 funding was, and didn’t learn about it until Wednesday.

“That’s marvelous,” Rubano said. “I want to publicly thank Sen. Robbins and Mike Gruitza for their efforts.”

The funding is aimed at the seven schools identified several years ago for their rapid loss in assessed property value. The program was originally for four years, with Farrell getting $1.6 million the first year and 25 percent less each following year. It was extended for two years at $158,000, with the last check coming in October.

“This is one year of funding, again, so we’ll be deciding it again next year,” Robbins said. He added that better-off schools tend to complain about the funding because they claim they’re not getting much state backing.

“I asked the people who were going to be on the conference committee to help us out and they did,” Gruitza said. “It’s a very important issue for Farrell. They’re really on the edge with their finances and every little bit helps them.”

He added that the state surplus aided Farrell’s case. “Fortunately, we’ve had a little bit of extra money to do these kinds of things.” Farrell is already getting a 6 percent hike in its basic education subsidy, the highest percentage increase among Mercer County schools.

With a mill of taxes bringing in about $17,000, $158,000 equals about 9.3 mills. The district has been on a cost-cutting track, trying to take as little as possible from its fund balance to balance this year’s budget, and the school board sent administrators back to the drawing board Monday to try to find ways to eliminate a 3-mill tax hike they proposed.

The fund balance stood at $917,000 on June 30 and in December officials said it could be gone by the end of the school year. Cuts made since than have saved more than $200,000.

“That will help alleviate some of that fund balance pressure,” Rubano said of the Stressed 7 funding.

But it won’t stop him from showing reduced spending when he unveils a tentative budget Monday. “We do have a successful program. We do make the most of our dollars and sense. We have to spend wisely.”

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