North Hills School District News Article

NHSD Board of Education approves proposed final budget for 2020-21

Posted Thursday, April 30, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- The North Hills School District Board of Education voted 6-2 to approve the school district’s proposed final budget for the 2020-21 school year during its Committee Meeting with Action on Thursday, April 30. The meeting was held virtually via Zoom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As proposed, the budget has revenues and expenditures of $83.7 million. It does not include a tax increase keeping the real estate tax rate at 18.65 mills for the 2020-21 school year.

Board of the Education President Allison Mathis echoed Superintendent Dr. Patrick J. Mannarino’s sentiments earlier this month, acknowledging that 2020-21 was going to be a tight budget year prior to COVID-19 with the district’s growing enrollment and the move of sixth grade to the North Hills Middle School.

Even so, the North Hills School District and Board of Education are committed to not raising taxes during these unprecedented and uncertain times.

"Due to the extreme financial difficulties faced by many at this time because of COVID-19 we are supporting a budget without a tax increase,” said President Mathis. “The reality is we are forced to make these decisions with limited information about what next year looks like. However, we are committed to doing the best we can for the entire North Hills community, for our schools and for the residents of West View and Ross Township."

She continued, "This is a unique challenge for our district, but I have every confidence that we will rise above this as long as we continue to support each other and our community and provide a high quality education."

The spending plan does not cut any programs or curriculum. Instead, it forces the district to take a pause in areas where it was hoped to fill vacancies or add positions, and asks all NHSD employees to think creatively, reallocate their budgeted resources and make do with less. The district will continue with its planned growth as soon as possible.

Areas of reallocation and pause next school year include:

  • A temporary, one-year override of the school board’s class size policy that will allow class sizes in certain K-3 classrooms to increase by two students. Based on current enrollment, this would impact two classrooms with the potential to impact up to eight. There will be 97 K-5 classrooms across the district next year so the elementary class impact is less than 10 percent.
  • Elementary Assistant Principal Dr. Jessica Sapsara will be relocated to North Hills Middle School. She will replace Mrs. Mary Grimm who has elected to return to the classroom as a sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Grimm’s decision was made prior to the COVID-19 crisis. NHSD will not be hiring a second assistant principal for the middle school as it had hoped, and Dr. Sapsara will not be replaced at the elementary level next year.
  • NHSD will not be hiring another school social worker or psychologist as hoped.
  • NHSD has two school nurses retiring this school year. Only one of those nurses will be replaced. This, however, we will not affect coverage in our schools’ nursing offices.

The proposed final budget also includes adjustments to improve the healthy and safety of everyone in the district particularly in regards to COVID-19.

NHSD will be expanding it’s 1:1 iPad initiative Project Connect to include all students in grades K-12 next school year. Over the summer, the district’s technology team will replace its entire fleet of iPads in a critical move to ensure all students have access to a device if the district should need to take on some form of virtual instruction next year. It will also eliminate the passing of germs when students share classroom devices.

"This does not mean we know we are going to have to have virtual learning next year, but it would be irresponsible to not plan for that possibility,” President Mathis remarked. “We do not know what next year is going to look like, but we need to be prepared to be adaptive and responsive."

Additionally, all water fountains in district buildings and at Martorelli Stadium will be replaced with water bottle refill stations as part of an ongoing initiative across all facilities and operations to improve health, hygiene and safety, and reduce the spread of germs.

NHSD will continue to look at the budget over the next month and may make slight adjustments if ways to operate more cost-effectively are uncovered but there will not be a tax increase.

For community members who wish to ask questions or comment on the proposed final budget, a public budget committee meeting is scheduled for next month. The meeting will be held virtually via Zoom on May 14 at 7 p.m. Attendees should register for the meeting using this link.

The district’s next Board of Education meeting will be held on May 21. Two meetings will be held in June, on June 4 and June 11.

The final approval of the 2020-21 final budget is slated for the June 11 Legislative Meeting.

All Pennsylvania school districts must submit their approved budgets to the state by June 30.

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