While a tax increase of some sort appears to be inevitable in the Palmerton Area School District, exactly how much remains to be seen.

The school board's Budget and Finance Committee on Monday began in earnest to craft the 2010-11 budget in the first of a series of meetings scheduled this month.

Committee members began the process to formulate a spending plan when they met with the principals of the elementary schools.

Early estimates for Towamensing Elementary's Community Music School budget presented by Principal Gary Bruch came in at $72,281, up from the $62,481 amount in the 2009-10 school year.

The difference is reflected in the $10,800 cost for the Community Music School, according to district business manager Lisa Vignone.

However, committee member Carl Bieling stressed that figure does not reflect an increase in the school's budget, but, rather, a transfer from one budgetary line item to another.

Committee member Michael Ballard praised Bruch for a job well done.

"It looks like you're right on the money," Ballard said. "As always."

Bruch said Towamensing did it's best to keep its budget down.

"We try; we know it's tough," Bruch said. "We have a really great staff."

Recently appointed S.S. Palmer/Parkside Elementary Principal Mary Brumbach presented a budget of $120,998, up from the $112,066 amount in 2009-10.

That increase is also reflected in the $10,800 cost for the Community Music School, which Bieling again noted is not an actual increase in the schools' budgets, but, rather, a transfer from one budgetary line item to another.

Ballard told Brumbach he was pleased with what he saw.

"Everything else is in line," Ballard said. "There's really not a lot to be changed."

Vignone then presented her business manager's budget, which she said will see a minimal increase from $43,700 in 09-10, to $44,550 in 10-11.

The main increase in her budget was necessitated by a rise in auditing costs, Vignone said.

The next Budget and Finance Committee meeting will be held at 3 p.m. March 9. Other meetings have been scheduled for 3 p.m. March 11, and 2:30 p.m. March 19.

The committee plans to review the junior high and senior high school budgets on March 9; Special Education, Technology, and CNI budgets on March 11, and maintenance budget on March 19.

Last year, the district adopted a budget for the 2009-10 school year that called for a 2.44 percent, or 1 mill, increase.

The $25,488,593 spending plan raised the millage rate from 41 to 42 mills. That meant a person who owned a $100,000 home, which was assessed at $50,000, paid $2,100, or $50 more, to the district in property taxes.

Prior to that, the last time the district raised property taxes was in the 2007-08 school year, when it passed a budget with a 2.5 percent increase.