The Ambridge Area School Board of Directors approved a 2018-2019 Operating Budget Wednesday evening that will enhance academic opportunities District-wide, while affording much-needed upgrades to infrastructure and technology. The budget was approved by a vote of 5 to 2.
Budget highlights include:
- Upgrades to the Middle School wireless service at a cost of $38,103;
- Four new laptop carts for the schools and a new laptop lab for the Middle School at a cost of $140,465;
- Purchase of 30 new laptops and 200 new iPads at a cost of $166,995; and
- New projectors purchased for $75,190 and existing projectors upgraded for $17,000.
- Thanks to an E-Rate grant secured by District Technology Supervisor Ms. Lori Heim, 80 percent of the cost of the wireless upgrades at the Middle School will be covered.
- Upgrading the security operating system;
- New and replacement cameras District-wide;
- District radios to improve communication among buildings/administrators; and
- Card access for elevators.
- New Grade 6-8 Math Textbooks;
- New Grade 3-12 Social Studies Textbooks;
- New High School Physics, Honors, Chemistry, Biology and Earth Science Textbooks;
- NMSI grant ($750,000) used to align and increase the rigor of the science, math and English curriculum District-wide. The terms of the three-year grant require the District to contribute $25,000 annually for the life of the grant to be used for staff development. Grant money through the partnership also will be used to dramatically increase the number of Ambridge students enrolled in AP courses and allow the District to provide an additional five AP courses beyond the eight already offered; and
- Assessment to Instruction (A2i) grant that will be used to help all students in the District reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade. A2i is an instructional tool that was developed and evaluated for more than a decade with the support of the Institute of Educational Sciences and the National Institutes of Health. It combines technology and
professional development to accomplish the goal of increased literacy of children in grades K-3. Highland Elementary will be 100 percent funded and State Street Elementary will be
50 percent funded through the program. Only 174 schools in the nation were invited to participate in the grant program.
“Some of these textbooks date back to 1990,” said Mr. Doug McCausland, Director of District Operations. The new math series is budgeted at $95,832 and the Science textbooks total $116,000. The District is able to pay for the Social Studies textbooks, totaling $61,048, over a two-year period.
Under the direction of AASD Facilities Manager Mr. David Matzie, more than $600,000 in capital improvements are built into the new budget and include:
- Locker replacement at Middle School - $89,720
- Patching at Economy Elementary - $150,000
Flooring and Window Coverings at Middle School - $56,490
- Stage Lighting at Middle School - $40,000
- Bridge repairs at High School - $75,000
- Bathroom replacements/upgrades at Middle School - $276,500
- Bathroom sink sensors and mixing valves at High School - $11,500
- Gymnasium painting, backboards and lighting at Middle School - $120,000
- Furniture replacement at Middle School - $75,000
“We’re moving in the right direction. We’re attacking maintenance issues that haven’t been addressed in years,” said Dr. Jo Welter, Superintendent. “We’re making use of the staff we have and taking care of the facilities we have while being good stewards of taxpayer money.”
The $49.49 million budget includes a millage increase of 2.1409 mills, or 2.7 percent. With the increase, the new millage rate will be 81.435 mills. One mill in the District generates approximately $267,000 in tax revenue. The median assessed value for a home in AASD is $23,450. With the new millage rate, the increased tax liability will be $50.21 annually.
“No district likes to adopt a budget with a tax increase,” said Dr. Welter. “We have done a lot to reduce costs within reason but are left with the reality that a tax increase is necessary if we want to provide a quality education to our students.”
Among the cost-saving efforts the District made prior to presenting the final budget included:
- Reducing, through attrition, five professional staffing positions, at a savings of $743,028;
- Anticipated profits of the AASD Food Services Department of an estimated $150,000;
- Savings in health insurance costs through the transition to the Allegheny School Health Consortium.
The 2018-2019 budget is available on the District website here.