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MASD Will Increase Budget to
Cope With Pandemic Aftermath

Allocation from federal CARES act will offset spending rise

By Siana Emery
The Tube City Almanac
May 28, 2021
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School District plans to increase its budget significantly for the 2021-2022, with the help of federal COVID-19 stimulus funding, but there will be no tax increase.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the school board approved the preliminary $81.1 million budget by a 6–1 vote. The spending plan represents an increase of almost 13 percent over 2020-2021.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act appropriated $13.2 billion for emergency relief for elementary and secondary schools.

District officials said the most significant expenditure changes largely focus on providing extra support for students, bolstering school safety and addressing learning losses caused by the pandemic. Expenditures include the addition of new educational and support faculty, camera system repairs and cyber school costs.

“The budget is very complex,” said Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr.. “Some of the things we’re focused on are trying to meet the needs of our children and addressing learning loss.”

Holtzman said that the district will be adding social workers to schools to provide support for the mental health of children, and hiring additional instructional technology teachers to make available more math and reading specialists to aid students.

Many of those personnel issues are already in the midst of being addressed, he said.

Parents and teachers have expressed concerns about the district’s online learning platform.

For the district’s online learning platform, “we are looking to designate full-time instructors to help with more serious learning,” he said. Hotzman added that the district is also looking at ways to allow for more data collection to provide the insight needed to make better informed decisions.

State level budgets need to be passed before the district will be able to finalize its own budget, officials said. Currently, the district budget is calculated with Basic Education and Special Education funding frozen at the 2019-2020 levels.

Major drivers in the creation of next year’s budget include the rise in tuition for cyber and charter schools, an increase in healthcare rates, increasing retirement costs, debt service payment increases and the allocation of CARES Act funding.

For the 2021-2022 school year, 75 percent of revenue will come from the state or the federal government. Local revenue will actually decrease by a little over $200,000.

All other items were also approved by the board, including a maintenance agreement and an agreement with PAeducator.net, as well as the second reading and adoption of updated Board policies.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 23.

Siana Emery is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh’s South Hilltop. She has also written for The Mennonite World Review, Goshen College Communications and Marketing and The Goshen College Record. She can be reached at sianaemery@gmail.com. Jason Togyer, editor of Tube City Almanac, contributed to this report.

Originally published May 28, 2021.

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