Belle Vernon Area School District

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Belle Vernon Area School District
Map of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
270 Crest Avenue
Southwestern Pennsylvania
Rostraver, Pennsylvania, Fayette County, Westmoreland County, 15012
United States
Coordinates 40.1756, -79.8981
Information
Type Public
Established 1965, first graduating class 1966
Founded 1965
Opened 5 days a week total 187 days
Closed Act 80 Days', Holidays', Summers'.
School board President Aaron J. Bialon

Vice President John M. Nusser, Jr. Secretary Daniel Sepesky

Assistant Secretary Edward C. Naylor

Joe Grata Kimberly Ringstad Gray Toni-Jo Kunka Cathy Chalfant Michener Ronald Sotta

School district Belle Vernon
Superintendent Dr. John D. Wilkinson
School number (724) area code, (929) regional code,
Principal Jason A. Boone
Principal Fred Labutta, RES
Principal Gregory J. Zborovancik BVMS
Asst. Principal John Grice
Grades K–12
Age range 7-20
Enrollment 2748 (2009-10) [1]
Kindergarten 223
Grade 1 208
Grade 2 234
Grade 3 251
Grade 4 232
Grade 5 213
Grade 6 210
Grade 7 244
Grade 8 276
Grade 9 271
Grade 10 262
Grade 11 278
Grade 12 248
Other Enrollment projected to be 2152 pupils in 2020[2]
Average class size 25
Medium of language 13-14
Language English (teaches Spanish + French)
Hours in school day 712
Houses average 55 yrs. old, average income $33,909, average no. of rooms 5.5, average person size 2.4 people
Color(s) Green, Gold, White
Sports Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Soccer, Track + Field, Baseball, Softball, Wrestling, Golf, Swimming.
Nickname Leopards
Team name Belle Vernon Leopards
Rivals Thomas Jefferson, Ringgold, Yough
Vision "Access the future through excellence in education"
Publication Every year
Newspaper The Leopard Tales
Yearbook The Leopard Profile
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES -$8,675.06, HS - $8,422.96 [3]
Revenue $30,365,000 student $10,658
Communities served Fayette City, North Belle Vernon, Rostraver, Belle Vernon, Washington Township
Website
Fayette County School Districts

The Belle Vernon Area School District is a midsized, suburban, public school district located approximately 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Pittsburgh in rural Westmoreland and Fayette County. The present school district was formed by a merger of the previous Belmar (having itself been the result of a merge between the Belle Vernon and Marion school districts) and Rostraver school districts in 1965. The district serves five political subdivisions located in 2 counties: Washington Township, Fayette City, North Belle Vernon, Belle Vernon, and Rostraver Township. The district area is 42.2 square miles (109 km2). Belle Vernon Area School District in southwestern Pennsylvania lies midway between the cities of Pittsburgh on the north, Uniontown on the south, Washington to the west, and Greensburg to the east. The district has a population as of 2000 of 20,127 residents. In 2009, the district residents’ per capita income was $18,808, while the median family income was $43,201.[4] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501[5] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[6] The school district uses the services of the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in New Stanton, Pa. along with the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 in Greensburg, Pa.

Governance[edit]

The school district is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[7] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "F" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[8]

Academic achievement[edit]

Belle Vernon Area School District was ranked 197th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2012, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the reading, writing, math and science PSSAs.[9] The annual tests are given to grades third through eighth and 11th graders.

  • 2011 - 239th [10]
  • 2010 - 241st[11]
  • 2009 - 248th
  • 2008 - 236th
  • 2007 - 205th out of 501 school districts.[12]
Western Pennsylvania School District Ranking - out of 105 western PA region school districts
  • 2012 - 54th [13]
  • 2011 - 60th
  • 2010 - 59th [14]
  • 2009 - 59th [15]

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Belle Vernon Area ranked 284th, while, in 2009, the district was 96th. The paper describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."[16]

  • 2011 - 329th
  • 2010 - 360th
  • 2009 - 394th

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Belle Vernon Area School District was in the 51st percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best)[17]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the graduation rate was 95%.[18] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Belle Vernon Area High School's rate was 90% for 2010.[19]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations:

High school[edit]

Belle Vernon Area High School is located at 425 Crest Avenue, Belle Vernon. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 915 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 228 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 57.6 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:89:1.[24] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[25]

In 2011, Belle Vernon Area High School declined to Warning status due to lagging achievement in Reading. In 2010 the school achieved AYP status.[26]

11th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 72% on grade level, (14% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[27]
  • 2010 - 71%, (8% below basic). State - 66% [28]
  • 2009 - 68%, (14% below basic). State - 65%[29]
  • 2008 - 73%, (13% below basic). State - 65%[30]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 69%, on grade level (15% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[31]
  • 2010 - 72%, (13% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2009 - 60% (19% below basic). State - 56%.
  • 2008 - 53% (24% below basic). State - 56%

11th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 44% on grade level (10% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[32]
  • 2010 - 28% (17% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 38% (14% below basic). State - 40%[33]
  • 2008 - 36%, State - 39%

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 33% of Belle Vernon Area High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[34] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[35] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 141 Belle Vernon Area High School students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 478. The Math average score was 479. The Writing average score was 450.[36] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[37] In the United States 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[38]

Dual enrollment[edit]

Belle Vernon Area High School offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offered a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[39] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[40] For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $14,015 for the program.[41]

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Belle Vernon Area School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 26 credits in order to graduate, including: 4 units Math, English 4 units, social studies 4 units, science 4 units, including Biology, 2 units Arts and Humanities, Physical Education and electives.[42] If a student does not meet the “proficient level or higher” in Mathematics they must complete the PSSA Enhancement Math Class with a grade of 75% or higher each of the four nine weeks (students must get a grade of 75% or higher each quarter) to graduate. A final Appeals Committee considers cases of student who are not on track to graduate.

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[43]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating classes of 2015 and 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[44][45][46]

Antibullying[edit]

The high school received a $2000 grant to be used for antibullying education initiatives. The grant was awarded by The Marcus L Ruscitto Foundation.

Cyber Academy[edit]

In 2011, the district joined BVA eAcademy which provides students with online courses through a collaboration with other Westmoreland County school districts.[47] The 2011–2012 WIU eAcademy Course Catalog includes 54 courses available to students.

Belle vernon Middle School[edit]

Belle Vernon Middle School is located at 500 Perry Avenue, Belle Vernon. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 339 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 122 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 20.85 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1.[48] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[49]

In 2011 and 2010, the school achieved AYP status. The attendance rate in both years was 94%.[50]

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 68% on grade level (8% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 58% (21% below basic). State – 57%[54]
  • 2009 - 68% (13% below basic). State - 55%[55]
  • 2008 - 59%, State - 52%[56]

Rostraver Middle School[edit]

Rostraver Middle School is located at 250 Crest Avenue, Belle Vernon. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 323 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 78 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 20.70 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1.[59] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[60]

In 2011 and 2010, the school achieved AYP status.[61] The attendance rate was 94% in both years.

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 68% on grade level (15% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 67% (17% below basic). State – 57%[65]
  • 2009 - 71% (8% below basic). State - 55%[66]
  • 2008 - 68%, (15% below basic). State - 52%[67]

Marion Elementary School[edit]

Marion Elementary School is located at 500 Perry Avenue, Belle Vernon. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 590 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 245 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 35 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 17:1.[68] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[69]

In 2011, the school achieved AYP status. Marion Elementary School was in School Improvement status for 2009-10 and 2010-11 due to chronic, low reading achievement in several grades.[70] According to No Child Left Behind, School Improvement Status required the district's administration to offer the opportunity to Marion Elementary students to transfer to a successful school (Rostraver Elementary School) within the district. It also mandated the administration develop and implement a plan to improve student achievement at the school and to notify all parents of the plan.[71][72]

PSSA Results
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 77%, (11% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 84%, (4% below basic), State - 81%
  • 2009 - 82%, (8% below basic), State - 83%
  • 2008 - 79%, (9% below basic), State - 81%

Rostraver Elementary School[edit]

Rostraver Elementary School is located at 300 Crest Avenue, Belle Vernon. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 581 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 157 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 35 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 17:1.[77] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[78]

In 2010 and 2011, the school achieved AYP status.[79] In 2010, the attendance rate was 95% and declined to 94% in 2011.[80]

PSSA Results
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 87%, (4% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 85%, (8% below basic), State - 81%
  • 2009 - 86%, (2% below basic), State - 83%
  • 2008 - 81%, (6% below basic), State - 81%

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 415 pupils or 14.9% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[83]

In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, the school district engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress .[84] To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Special Education administration. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the district's Special Education Department.

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[85] The Pennsylvania Special Education funding system assumes that 16% of the district’s students receive special education services. It also assumes that each student’s needs accrue the same level of costs.[86] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[87] Overidentification of students in order to increase state funding has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[88]

Belle Vernon Area School District received a $1,533,361 supplement for special education services in 2010.[89] For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[90]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 138 or 4.71% of its students were gifted in 2009.[91] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[92]

Budget[edit]

In 2009, the district reported employing 242 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $63,330 and a top salary of $122,000.[93] Teachers work a 187-day school year with a 7.5-hour day, including a daily preparation period and a 30-minute duty-free lunch. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, and other benefits.[94][95] In 2011, the average teacher salary in BVASD was $61,281 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $17,194 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $76,476.[96] According to a study conducted at the American Enterprise Institute, in 2011, public school teachers’ total compensation is roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in the private sector. The study found that the most generous benefits that teachers receive are not accounted for in many studies of compensation, including: pension, retiree health benefits and job security.[97]

In 2007 the district employed 156 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $56,784 for 180 days worked.[98] As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[99] According to Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the state teacher retirement fund, a 40-year Pennsylvania public school educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[100]

Belle Vernon Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 were $766.94 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[101] Superintendent Stephen V. Russell's salary was reported as $122,800 in 2009.[102] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association keeps statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. According to the association's report, the average salary for a superintendent, for the 2007-08 school year, was $122,165. Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[103]

Reserves - In 2008, the district reported an unreserved designated fund balance of zero and an unreserved-undesignated fund balance of $2,449,816.00.[104] In 2010, the Board reported the unreserved designated fund balance rose to $2,878,676.00, while the unreserved-undesignated fund balance was $3,075,042.00.[105]

In 2008, the district administration reported that per pupil spending was $10,531 which ranked 436th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010, Belle Vernon Area School District's per pupil spending increased to $11,480.14.[106] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[107]

In March 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the school board and administration.[108]

The district is funded by the following taxes: local property tax, a local income tax and a real estate transfer tax - 0.5%, coupled with state and federal funding. In Pennsylvania, pension income and social security income are exempt from state income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of personal wealth.[109]

State basic education funding[edit]

In 2011-12, the district received a $9,161,937 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[110][111] Additionally, the Belle Vernon Area School District received $185,019 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011–2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010–2011.[112] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[113] In 2010, Belle Vernon Area School District reported that 827 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[114]

For the 2010-11 budget year, the Belle Vernon Area School District received a 2.82% increase for $9,908,857 in state Basic Education Funding. The highest increase in Westmoreland County was given to the Yough School District a 7.40% increase in Basic Education Funding. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[115] The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where a district received at least the same amount as the year before, even where enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some districts at a far greater rate than others.

In 2009-10, Belle Vernon Area School District received an 5.20% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $9,637,413. The highest increase in Westmoreland County went to Southmoreland School District with a 6.44% increase. In Pennsylvania, over 15 school districts received Basic Education Funding increases in excess of 10% in 2009. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding. Ninety school districts were given the base 2% increase. The state's Basic Education Funding to the Belle Vernon Area School District in 2008-09 was $9,161,936.72.[116] The amount of increase each school district receives is determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the state budget proposal made in February each year.[117] In 2008 the district reported that 790 students received a free or reduced-price lunch due to low family income.[118]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004–2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students, For 2010-11, the district applied for and received $502,187 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten and to provide assistance to struggling students.[119][120]

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006 to 2009. Belle Vernon Area School District Administration did not apply to participate in 2006-07 nor in 2007-08. Belle Vernon Area School District received $165,458 in 2008-09.[121] In Westmoreland County, the highest award was given to Franklin Regional School District - $412,677. The highest funding state wide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. In 2010, Classrooms for the Future funding was curtailed statewide due to a massive state financial crisis.

School Improvement Grant[edit]

For the 2010-11 school year, Belle Vernon Area School District administration applied for a School Improvement Grant. It was eligible for funding due to the chronic, low achievement at Marion Elementary School.[122] The district received $46,180.00

In 2010, Pennsylvania received $141 million from the federal –US Department of Education, to turn around its worst-performing schools. The funds were disbursed via a competitive grant program.[123] The Pennsylvania Department of Education has identified 200 Pennsylvania schools as "persistently lowest-achieving," making them eligible for this special funding.[124] Pennsylvania required low performing schools to apply or provide documentation about why they had not applied. The funds must be used, by the district, to turn around schools in one of four ways: school closure, restart - close the school and reopen it as a charter school. The other two options involve firing the principal. One would require at least half the faculty in a chronically poor performing school be dismissed. The second involves intensive teacher training coupled with strong curriculum revision or a longer school day.[125]

Federal Stimulus funding[edit]

The district received an extra $2,115,522 in Federal Stimulus ARRA funds in 2009–2011. This was in addition to all regular state and federal funding.[126] These extra dollars must be focused on programs to improve the academic achievement of low-income students who receive free and reduced-price lunch or special education students.

Race to the Top grant[edit]

Belle Vernon Area School District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have meant millions in additional federal dollars to improve student academic achievement. The district has been identified as a turnaround school district. This means the district would have received an additional $700 to $900 per student above and beyond the primary grant funding. Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[127] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[128][129][130]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

Belle Vernon Area School Board elected to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[131] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

The Belle Vernon Area School Board set property tax rates in 2011-12 at 18.2500 mills for residents in Fayette County and 77.6900 mills in Westmoreland County.[132] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region.[133] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75 and 85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[134] The school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, necessitating a state board equalization of the tax rates between the counties.[135] In 2010, miscalculations by the board were widespread in the Commonwealth and adversely impacted funding for many school districts, including those that did not cross county borders.[136]

  • 2010-11 - 17.0700 mills for residents in Fayette County and 72.9300 mills in Westmoreland County.[137]
  • 2009-10 - 16.3800 mills for residents in Fayette County and 70.4900 mills in Westmoreland County.[138]
  • 2008-09 - 16.5200 mills for residents in Fayette County and 68.4900 mills in Westmoreland County.[139]
  • 2007-08 - 16.1600 mills for residents in Fayette County and 68.4000 mills in Westmoreland County.[140]
  • 2006-07 - 16.3500 mills for residents in Fayette County and 69.7300 mills in Westmoreland County.[141]

Act 1 Adjusted Index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not allowed to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011–2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[142] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[143] Several exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school’s share of payments to PSERS (PA school employees pension fund) taking into account the state mandated PSERS contribution rate.[144][145]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Belle Vernon Area School District 2006–2007 through 2011–2012.[146]

  • 2006-07 - 5.5%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.6%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.0%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.6%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.0%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 1.9%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.3%, Base 1.7% [147]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Belle Vernon Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2012–2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.[148]

For the 2011-12 school year, Belle Vernon Area School Board applied for three exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: Maintenance of Local Tax Revenue; Maintenance of Selected Revenue Sources and Teacher Pension Costs. Each year, the School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[149]

According to a state report, for the 2011–2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions: 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[150]

The School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011.[151] For the 2009-10 year school budget, the Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index.[152] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[153]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Belle Vernon Area School District was set at $163 for the 115.793 approved primary homesteads and farmsteads.[154] The highest tax relief in Fayette County went to Uniontown Area School District at $202 for 5,550 homesteads. In Westmoreland County the highest tax relief went to New Kensington–Arnold School District at $300.[155] In 2009, Belle Vernon was set at $165 for 5,714 approved homesteads and farmsteads.[156] The tax relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners must apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 acres (40,000 m2) contiguous and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Fayette County, 71% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009 while in Westmoreland County 61% of property owners participated[157] Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[158] This was the second year CUSD was the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently people who have an income of substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[159]

Enrollment[edit]

According to Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment reports, the District's enrollment was 2886 pupils in K–12 in 2006-07 school year. Enrollment is projected to decline to 2152 students by 2020. The Class of 2009 has 259 students. The class of 2011 had 212 students. Current elementary enrollment trends mean that the Class of 2020 will have 188 pupils.[160] In 2008, the district administrative costs were $766.94 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[161] A study of Pennsylvania public school spending, conducted by Standard and Poor's, examined the consolidation of school district with low or declining enrollment. The study found that consolidation of the administration with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings which varied by district.[162] In 2011 the school board approved curtailing the middle school foreign language program and furloughing six teachers as part of its budget process for 2011-12.[163]

According to a 2009 school district administration consolidation proposal by Governor Edward Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging academic achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to reduce property taxes.[164] Consolidation of two central administrations into one would not require the closing of any schools. The Governor's proposal called for the savings to be redirected to improving lagging reading and science achievement, to enriching the academic programs or to reducing residents' property taxes.[165]

Over the next 10 years, rural Pennsylvania school enrollment is projected to decrease 8 percent.[166] As the enrollment declines, per pupil administrative costs of the schools continue to rise. In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants released a report finding that the state would save hundreds of millions of tax dollars, by cutting the number of school administrations in half through consolidation, with no impact on programs offered to students.[167]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity.[168] In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the 49 respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[169]

Alma Mater[edit]

Our Alma Mater,

We'll Be True To Thee,

With Honor And Integrity,

We Pledge Our Loyalty.

Hail Mighty Leopards,

Our Hearts Remain,

In Steadfast Love For

Gold and White!

Our Memories Not In Vain.

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy.[170][171][172]

By Pennsylvania law, all K–12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[173]

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