HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -
The Harrisburg School Board passed a $132 million budget Monday night that will restore full-day kindergarten to the district and will not increase property taxes for the 2014-2015 school year.
It's part of a five-year recovery plan created by state-appointed recovery officer Gene Veno. He said kindergarten alone costs the district $1 million per year, but it's money well spent in a struggling city.
"We have to think of the kids first," Veno said.
Also in his plan is nearly $10 million in salary restoration for teachers, staff and administrators who were forced to take a five percent cut in pay last summer, along with a five percent increase in healthcare premium costs.
In September, shortly after the unions voted on the cuts, Veno discovered an $11 million surplus in the district due to over-projected expenditures by the business office. The board has already voted to pay each employee affected a lump sum equal to five percent of their yearly pay by June 30 and an additional five percent lump sum in January. Veno said next year, the district will consider increasing employee base pay by 2.5 percent.
"We couldn't just restore the base pay (from the $11 million)," Veno said. "But this is so much better than having to privatize custodial and other services, which was part of the original recovery plan."
The district's administration offices have now moved to the old Lincoln School, which closed in 2012 due to lack of enrollment. Veno said this will translate to a $500,000 savings/year because their former headquarters at Front and Maclay streets cost $40,000/month in rent.