The Board of Education for the Jim Thorpe Area School District voted to approve a preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 school year at its meeting on Monday evening. The $36 million budget calls for a tax increase of 10 percent or 4.1 mills and would still result in an $87,103 deficit.

Board member Randall Smith, chair of the finance and insurance committee, presented the preliminary budget to the board. The budget calls for a total property tax of 43.95 mills, which is an increase of 4.1 mills. This will result in total revenue of $36,052,173. Expenses for the 2010-2011 school year are expected to be $36,139,275, which will leave the board with a deficit of $87,103 by year's end.

The preliminary budget is the first step in the annual budget process and must be presented to the state Board of Education by the end of February. Smith pointed out that this budget was only preliminary and that much work remained to be done to trim it down to something that everyone in the district can live with.

"We have not looked at this budget closely enough and trimmed it enough," said board member Ellen Kattner in response to a question from a resident in attendance relating to the accuracy of the preliminary budget.

"The short answer is, this budget can't go up, it needs to come down," Smith added. "It has to come down. This is a 10 percent increase. No one can swallow that kind of increase. None of you, none of us and none of the family members and neighbors that we know. So we have a lot of hard work to do."

Smith said that in the first two budget meetings, the budget has already been trimmed by $50,000. He said that more can be trimmed with work. He said the board looks forward to the community participating in that work.

"Come to the cafeteria and building committee meetings," said board member Gerald Strubinger. "Whenever you see that advertised or on the website, that's where the discussion is. I'm in favor of getting the citizenry involved on both ends of the district."

"And don't miss the finance and insurance committee meetings," Smith added. "That's where we have to figure out how to fund all of this. There is no good news coming out of that committee."

The next finance and insurance committee meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 1. An additional workshop meeting is planned for the evening of March 17 at 6 p.m. More information will be available on the school district's Web site.

Dr. Clem McGinley, a member of the board, agreed that taxpayers needed access to this information.

"The other thing we need is more transparency to the public," McGinley said. "This is a real complex issue. The dollars and cents, population growth all factors in and I think you need to see the facts and figures. And we do have them. Some of them are projections but some of them are very accurate. I think we need to get that out to the public."

One resident asked the board if it had considered a taxpayer based committee to consult with the board on the building issue. Conway responded.

"With all due respect," she replied pointing to the board, "the people sitting here are the taxpayer representatives. I think you need to go to them. That's what you elected them for."

But both Smith and Strubinger said that public comment was welcome and that most of the work would be done at the committee meetings for the cafeteria and building committee and the finance and insurance budget.

"Come to the meetings, that's where all of this information is being disseminated," Strubinger said. "Bring your friends and come to the meetings and you'll be heard."

The board moved to approve the preliminary budget. The final budget for the 2010-2011 school year is due to be delivered to the state by the end of June.