The Panther Valley School Board voted unanimously to approve a proposed final budget totaling $23,901,607 for the 2010-2011 school year.
The proposed budget included no tax increase for Carbon County and a tax reduction of 1.19 mills for Schuylkill County (Coaldale residents). Although the decision was unanimous, it did cause concern for some of the directors. The same bottom line was shot down earlier this month, when it included a tax increase for Carbon County. Now, instead of raising taxes, the budget calls for the district to dip into its reserve funds to cover approximately $813,000.
"It seems like we're not looking at what's going to happen three or four years down the road," said Director Dave Hiles. "I think we're setting ourselves up for a massive increase next year and the year after. I think it's a bad thing to feel good about our tax situation this year for a few weeks, and then have everyone hate us next year."
Hiles referred to a situation in 2000, where the board had to levy a significant tax increase to make up for a severe shortfall in the reserve funds.
Business manager Kenneth Marx said that there are other potential sources of income for the district that could cover the difference, without having to dip into the reserves, citing the potential tax settlement with LC&N, the income the district could see from the tax on former church properties, and refinancing the District's debt service. "The budget is a guideline, a worst case scenario," said Marx. "It's up to the business manager, the superintendent, and the board to spend under that," he said. Superintendent Rosemary Porembo also cited the two previous school years where the district spent between $600,000 and $900,000 less than the final budget. Porembo did caution that there could be unforeseen expenses, such as a new roof or an increase in the district's special education needs, that could jeopardize any proposed budget.
Director Bill Hunsicker called for a review of every expenditure as the year progresses. "We have to be prudent. We have to say 'is this in the budget' and if he (Marx) says no, we have to make that decision. We have to ask that question every time," he said.
Director R. Mickey Angst voted for the budget, however, added that he intends to vote no on specific items as they are raised for a vote. "A two, three, or four mill increase won't assure us that we won't be in real trouble next year," he said, but he added that the fix can't be found at the local taxpayer level and called on Harrisburg to take action on items like the potential increases in the pension fund that could hit the district in 2012.
The final budget will be voted on at the June 24th meeting.