By a 7-2 vote last evening, Lehighton Area School Board approved the final budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

"Although we lost substantial state and federal funding, we didn't have to cut programs or furlough teachers," school board President Dave Krause said.

The budget involves a 0.75 mill or 1.61 percent increase in real estate taxes. This equals an increase of approximately $33.30 on the district's median taxable assessed value of $44,400. The total budget of $34,259,450 represents a 0.38 percent decrease from the 2010-2011 school year budget. Budgeted state revenue has decreased by 7.36 percent and budgeted federal revenue has decreased by 40.45 percent.

"Obviously, we'd like to have no tax increase, but costs are always going up," said Krause. "We minimized the best we could."

Superintendent James Kraky and business administrator J. Michael Malay, Jr. had tentatively agreed to freeze their salaries for the 2011-2012 school year.

Solicitor William G. Schwab had also agreed to a tentative freeze in his hourly rate. In addition, Act 93 employees and other nonbargaining unit employees have also agreed to a tentative salary freeze. Both the Lehighton Area Education Association and the Lehighton Area Education Support Personnel Association refused the wage freeze.

In a cost-cutting measure, the school board voted to authorize Malay, after reviewing quotes and consulting with attorney Schwab, to enter into a contract for health insurance stop loss coverage.

In other business, upon recommendation by the solicitor, the district denied grievances by the Lehighton Area Education Association and the Lehighton Area Education Support Personnel Association. The grievances, which apparently involved contract health care benefits, were denied by the school board in accordance with the proper grievance procedure.

In other business, LAHS health and physical education teacher Dorothy Hartney presented an overview of the Health Education Assessment Project (HEAP). It is a national consortium with the mission to improve students' health literacy through improved health instruction. Comprised of program specialists, educators, researchers and representatives from state departments of education, school districts and higher education, private sector consultants, and federal agencies, HEAP is one of many collaborative projects sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Hartney is one of only four HEAP-trained teachers in Pennsylvania.

Diane Brownmiller, librarian for both Mahoning and Shull-David Elementary schools, was joined by Mahoning fourth-grade students Samantha Banning and Emma McClafferty for a presentation concerning Tech Wizards. This program teams up to three students and one teacher/adviser from a school to attend monthly training sessions at Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21. At each session, the team experiences hands-on training in an emerging technology, along with coaching and mentoring guidance.

Both Kraky and Krause thanked Suzanne Howland, Response to Instruction and Intervention teacher for LASD, for her role in organizing the second annual Lehighton School and Community Educational/Safety Program. This popular event took place on June 16 at Lehighton Baer Memorial Swimming Pool. It is designed to bridge the gap between the school and community by providing a free educational/safety awareness program.

They also stressed the importance of the Community Drug and Alcohol Awareness meeting that will take place this evening at Lehighton Area High School Auditorium from 6:30-8:30 p.m. This meeting will be informational and educational in nature.

Representatives are scheduled to attend from the attorney general's office, district attorney's office, LASD administration, and Tri-County Drug and Alcohol office. All parents and community members are welcome to attend. The meeting and information will be tailored toward adults only.

The next meeting of Lehighton Area School Board is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, July 25.

For more information about LASD, visit www.Lehighton.org.