Palmerton Area School Board plans to tackle two important issues head on at a special meeting on Tuesday.

The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. for the purpose of contract ratification. Contacted via email, Superintendent Carol Boyce told the TIMES NEWS the meeting agenda will read to ratify the support unit contract.

However, Boyce said she couldn't discuss the support union contract further "since everything thus far has been in executive session."

Last month, the board tabled the ratification of the collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Palmerton Area Educational Support Personnel Association; the term of said agreement is from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2013.

Immediately afterward, the board will hold another budget workshop as it continues to contend with the 2011-12 spending plan.

In February, the board, on a 5-4 vote, agreed to adopt a $27,388,661 preliminary budget that calls for a 12.6-percent, or 5.5-mill increase that would raise the millage rate from 43.64 to 49.14 mills.

That would mean a person with a home valued at $100,000 and assessed at $50,000 would pay $2,455, or $275 more in property taxes to the district next year.

Even if the board were to approve next year's budget with a 5.5 mill increase, Boyce said the least amount it must cut from next year's budget is $808,882.

In dollars, that would mean an annual increase of $275 based on a $50,000 assessment, or $23 a month, Boyce said. Per child, that would result in $409 less per child, said Boyce, who added that the district has already decreased in pupil spending over a two year-period by $661 per child.

If the board were to approve the budget with a 3-mill increase, it would still need to make $1.5 million in cuts.

Last week, Donna Les, part-time interim acting business manager, told the board next year's $27,026,260 preliminary budget is comprised primarily of salaries and benefits, fixed costs, and student activities/athletics.

Afterward, Boyce polled each board member as to how much of an increase they would potentially agree to support.

Director Clarence Myers said he would support a 4-mill increase; Director Carol Dwyer a zero-mill increase; Director Darlene Yeakel a 3-mill increase; Director Tina Snyder a 2.5-mill increase; Director Stuart Henritzy a 3-mill increase; Director Carl Bieling a 2.5-mill increase, Director Susan Debski a 5-mill increase, and board President Barry Scherer a 5.506-mill increase. Director Michael Ballard said he was uncertain as to how much of an increase he would support.

Some of the non-mandated costs the board has discussed include a districtwide salary freeze in the 2011-12 school year ($398,132); departmental cuts ($167,524); pupil transportation, excluding special education per IEP ($500,000); the potential reduction of a 4.2-percent increase to 1.9-percent in the Carbon Career & Technical Institute's 2011-12 budget ($153,922); and the ability to rescind approval of Lehigh Carbon Community College's 2011-12 budget ($206,618).

Other non-mandated costs are the potential elimination of aides at Towamensing Elementary, S.S. Palmer Elementary and the high school ($197,000); athletics wages plus transfer plus insurance ($398,649); student activities ($126,923); elimination of all overtime ($30,559); elimination of all districtwide summer hours ($20,904); public library support ($17,000); curriculum writing ($17,553); and to eliminate drug testing funds ($10,000)

None of the non-mandated costs have been eliminated by the board as of yet.

Les said the board must adopt a proposed final budget by May 19. Final adoption is due by June 30.

This year, homeowners saw a 3.9 percent, or 1.64-mill increase, in their property tax rates after the board in June approved the 2010-11 budget on a 5-4 vote that raised the millage rate from 42 to 43.64 mills.

That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, which was assessed at $50,000, paid $2,182 in property taxes to the district, $82 more than the $2,100 rate they paid in 2009-10 when the board passed a budget with a 2.44 percent, or 1 mill, increase that resulted in a $50 increase for residents with the same home value.