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Superintendent Warns of Budgetary Pressures

Holtzman: Charter schools, salaries, benefits remain concerns for MASD

By Adam Reinherz
The Tube City Almanac
April 29, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School District is facing budgetary pressures from charter school tuition, salaries and employee benefits, Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. told the board this week.

Holtzman dedicated a portion of Wednesday’s meeting to informing school board members of the budgetary pressures facing the district.

The projected preliminary budget for 2022-23, Holtzman said, is $79,772,968, a 1.68 percent decrease from the previous year.

Holtzman noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, taxes were not raised — “for good reason,” he said — though that decision did mean the loss of $1.7 million in revenue for the district.

One of the “biggest pressures” on the budget remains charter schools, according to McKeesport’s superintendent, as nearly 800 students in the district attend charter schools, with the majority of those students attending cyber institutions.  

In order to offset the cost of charter school tuition, the district, he said, is eyeing a budgetary increase of nearly $4.5 million dollars, almost 17 percent of the district’s total budget. Similarly, with the budget for retirement contributions rising by $353,821, the district is looking at a total cost of $16,560,753, or 20.76 percent of its budget, going to employee benefits.

What’s critical to understand, Holtzman told the school board, is that “72 percent of the budget comes out of charter school tuition, salaries and employee benefits.” So even in an $80 million dollar budget, “the majority of it is spoken for,” therefore, there’s little room for discretionary spending.

So whether a district needs to purchase extra resources, hire new staff, maintain buildings or perform other upkeep, the amount of money left in the budget to do so is about 10 percent, “if you’re lucky,” and that sum becomes smaller each year, he said.  

A sizable number of educators and professionals are soon set to receive pay increases.

“They've earned it, but the fact of the matter,” Holtzman said, “is when it becomes a large group of educators that becomes a financial burden.” There is a tremendous pressure on the district’s budget, Holtzman continued. Understanding this is “really, really important.”

Adam Reinherz is a Pittsburgh-based journalist. He can be reached at adam.reinherz@gmail.com. 

Originally published April 29, 2022.

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