RIMERSBURG – Even with expecting revenues to be down this year, Union School District officials last week gave the preliminary green light to a budget that holds the line on property taxes.

The $12,331,811 preliminary budget was unanimously adopted by the nine-member board at its May 12 meeting. Projected expenses in the budget are only about $23,000 more than the current year’s spending plan.

“The hard part this year is we don’t know what our revenues will be,” Union superintendent John Kimmel said after the preliminary budget was approved. He noted that the district also is still awaiting word on how much Union will receive in federal pandemic CARES funding.

Kimmel also said that with the state of the economy, the district is also projecting lower tax collections in the new school year.

“We’re aiming low on revenues,” he said.

The budget lists revenues and other sources totaling $11,383,869, leaving a deficit of about $950,000.

Kimmel said that while most budget categories saw a reduction this year, several saw increases. After cutting most supplies last year, new supplies were added into this year’s budget. Van transportation costs to private schools have gone up, Kimmel said, as well as the number of Union students planning to attend the Clarion County Career Center.

With the closing of Rimersburg Elementary School, Kimmel said the district will see savings in maintenance and upkeep, as well as some savings in utility costs, personnel and duplication of services.

“In looking at our budget deficit as compared to last year, the first draft in 2019-2020 was approximately a $1.6 million deficit,” Kimmel explained. “We settled at just about $1 million in deficit budgeting. This year, we have gotten closer to $800,000 in deficit spending with an expected grant to offset another $146,000 through the CARES Act.”

Kimmel said the district is “significantly better off financially with the upcoming budget than we were last year at this time.”

The board is expected to adopt the final budget at its June 11 meeting.

Football Vote

Draws Crowd

Rumors that Union board members planned to replace head varsity football coach Brad Dittman drew a number of parents and student-athletes to last week’s meeting.

A month earlier, the school board had tabled Dittman’s approval for the upcoming football season, after voicing concerns about an assistant coach. Members, at the time, said they wanted to meet with Dittman and their A-C Valley counterparts before moving forward.

Carrie Wolbert and several other parents spoke out at the May 12 meeting, urging the board to stick with Dittman.

“Our team is currently thriving,” Wolbert said, blasting board member Shelly Atzeni, alleging that she had a personal vendetta against the current coaching staff.

Board president Brenda Brinker said that while she could not address personnel issues related to a former assistant coach, she said the two school districts were working together on a plan to address the hiring of assistant coaches.

Brinker also defended Atzeni, saying that as an elected school director, she is permitted to vote on all issues that do not fall under specific conflict of interest rules.

After other spoke out in favor of keeping Dittman, Brinker told the crowd that there had been no discussion of replacing the head coach, only issues related to assistant coaches.

When it came time to vote, Dittman was rehired in a 6-3 vote, with members Brinker, Atzeni and Mark Rummel voting in opposition.

All Union Students

To Receive

Grocery Funds

Even though Union has been providing food pickups for students on a weekly basis during the pandemic shutdown, superintendent John Kimmel announced last week that every student would also be eligible to receive benefits from the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program.

He explained that because Union qualifies to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students, regardless of family income, all students would soon receive a card that can be used to purchase groceries.

The amount is based on $5.70 per student per day since schools were closed on March 16, giving each student roughly $370 on the card.

According to paperwork received by the district, the cards will begin mailing to students around June 5.

Other Business

• Elementary principal Tom Minick thanked teachers and staff for “going above and beyond” to continue instructing students during the closures. He also thanked students’ families for working with the teachers to help their children. High school principal Kris Glosser also thanked staff members.

“There is so much hard work going on,” she said.

• Minick said elementary Awards Days were being planned for May 28 and 29, and that options for how to hold the events were still being considered.

• Kimmel said that a drive-through style graduation ceremony at the high school was being planned as the first choice to honor the Class of 2020. Although details had yet to be finalized, he said that the program could begin with an escort from Sligo Elementary School to the high school, where seniors, one-by-one, could pull up and receive their diplomas.

• The board unanimously approved the 2020-2021 Clarion County Career Center budget in the amount of $2,738,881. Union’s share will rise to $403,707 this year, as officials noted the number of Union students attending the center will rise from 43 this year to 54 next year.

• The board set the salary of school board secretary Megan Hepler at $1,695.

• Steve Wiencek was appointed as the board treasurer for the new school year at no cost to the district.

• The following coaching positions were filled: Kayla Donato, varsity cheer coach, $1,500; Jessica Andrusky, junior high cheer coach, $1,000; Allyson Kepple, head girls varsity basketball coach, $3,010; Halle Culmer, first assistant volleyball coach, $1,900; Brad Dittman, varsity football coach, $2,940.

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