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Upper Dublin School Officials Seek Help From Staff In Closing $3M Budget Gap

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UPPER DUBLIN, Pa. (CBS) – They say desperate times call for desperate measures, and for school districts across Pennsylvania, these are desperate times.

To close a $3 million budget gap, the Upper Dublin School District in Montgomery County has come up with something that’s either desperate or genius – depending on who you ask of course.

The district is asking all its teachers, administrators and staff members to chip in by making a charitable contribution to help close the budget gap. The district asked teachers and administrators to pay $1,000 each; for support staff, it’s $250.

“We thought maybe a voluntary contribution was a different way to go,” Superintendent Michael Pladus said. “What we had hoped to do was avoid the furloughs and demotions taking place in other districts.”

“No twisting of arms. It was everyone coming together, stepping up,” said School Board President Michael Paston. The money would be routed through the district’s “education foundation, and then be used to plug the budget and pay the bills.”

Paston said the district was hoping to avoid having to reopen the teachers’ contract which was settled just last year and engage in potentially contentious negotiations.

Instead, this way, if most people take part, district officials have promised no layoffs this year or next. The donations could bring in as much as $400,000.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania School Boards’ Association says she has never heard of a district trying this before.

But it’s not all gone without a hitch.

So far, Pladus says all of the administrators have agreed to pay along with about 90 percent of the support staff. But the teachers’ union, with 340 members, decided against voluntary contributions and instead wants to make this a formal salary giveback with all or no teachers taking part. A vote is scheduled on Tuesday.

“I not only work here, I live here,” said high school Social Studies teacher Jules Mermelstein who is in favor of the contributions. “As a union, as a group of teachers we have to come together to support the district.”

But Mermelstein said he agrees it should be handled formally through the union.

“I think the fairest way is for it to be a union vote, rather than it be the individual contributions,” he said.

Teacher salaries in Upper Dublin range from $43,000 to $98,000. The president of the teachers’ union did not return our calls for comment.

Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

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