Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Cuts to arts, hikes in fees opposed

- By Anne Cloonan

The Norwin school board meeting drew a crowd Monday, with audience members asking the board not to cut art, music or home economics classes and not to raise fees for high school pool use.

More than 60 people turned out to make the requests as the board struggles with a projected $3.3 million budget deficit for the 2017-18 school year.

Student Martina Mandella said the possibilit­y of the district cutting arts and music has been increasing­ly discussed at the high school.

She said she plans to be a plastics engineer, but she urged school directors not to cut arts programs, saying they teach innovative, critical and analytical thinking.

In an earlier news release, the district stated that school directors and administra­tors are addressing the budget deficit “by taking a comprehens­ive, strategic approach which doesn’t target any one area or department, but instead looks at all areas for possible expense reductions.”

Amy Smeltzer of the Norwin Aqua Club, which uses the high school pool, spoke at the meeting about what she said would be a 600 percent increase in the fee for the club to use the pool.

The independen­t swim club, which has operated since the 1970s, offers swimming lessons, a swim team and a master’s swim program for adults. A number of students from the club also competeont­heNorwinsw­im team, she said.

The district currently charges the club $3 per hour plus custodian fees for swim matches, which costs the club about $4,500 per year, Mrs. Smeltzer said Wednesday. Under the proposed increase in fees to use district facilities, the club would pay $20 per hour, or about $22,000 per year, she said.

If the club has to pay that amount, she fears it won’t be able to continue to offer halfoff discounts to children for swim lessons, she said.

During the meeting, she noted that coaches of the other eight independen­t swim teams in the Chestnut Ridge League said they do not pay fees to use pools at local schools.

School directors said earlier that the amount Norwin charges outside groups to use district facilities doesn’t cover the custodians’ hourly wages or the cost of electricit­y used by the groups.

In an earlier news release, it stated that raising the facility rental fees for outside groups based on hourly rates for custodial, maintenanc­e and technical services could generate an additional $50,000 toward operating expenses.

The board is scheduled to vote May 15 on the facility fees. Near the end of Monday’s meeting, board president Bob Perkins said the board will revisit the fees, but he could not guarantee they would not be raised.

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