The Tamaqua Area School Board passed its budget for 2011-12 which does not include a tax hike, but does eliminate 10 professional employees and other staff cuts, during its regular meeting held last night.

The new spending plan is the same as the preliminary one approved earlier. The vote to pass the plan was 7-0 with two members absent.

The budget also includes the elimination of three non-professional employees and several assistant coaches, a wage freeze, an increase in the pay-to-participate student athletics fee and other cost-saving measures.

Voting in favor of the spending plan were directors Wanda Zuber, Eileen Meiser, Aaron Frantz, Robert Betz, Bryan Miller, Thomas Rottet and Daniel Schoener. Absent from the meeting were Larry Wittig and Mark Rother.

The salary freeze and the savings realized include: professional employess, $265,000; credit reimbursement reduction $100,000; district-wide professional development freeze, $62,550; administrative salary freeze, $35,000; advisor salary freeze, $638; coach salary freeze, $1,921; and non-contract position salary freeze, $1,241.

The total savings is $516,350.

Professional positions eliminated include one high school guidance counselor, a high school social studies teacher, a high school business teacher, an elementary/PSSA prep teacher and six elementary teachers.

The three non-professional positions eliminated amounts to a savings of $90,000. Eliminated were a maintenance worker, a custodian and a secretary.

There are no curtailments of educational programs at the elementary level, it was noted. The computers and writing elective course was eliminated from the curriculum but the contents of the course were incorporated into other core content courses, Superintendent Carol Makuta said.

The budget includes a hike of $10 per sport in the pay-to-play fees. The fee was increased to $40 for the first sport, $30 for the second sport, and $20 for the third sport.

Makuta noted that a benefactor, who asked to remain anonymous, has made a $10,000 donation to the district for the purpose of helping students pay the costs of the pay-to-play program. She said that the money will probably cover all students for the new year with some funds left over.

Also eliminated were assistant coaching positions in tennis, cross-country, JV baseball and JV softball.

The balanced budget lists total expending and income at $24 million.

The board is also in talks with the teachers association for the possible change in the winter schedule that would include a four-day school week for students which would save the district another $98,000. However, that proposal was not discussed at the meeting.

Other action

The board acted on a number of other district issues during the meeting.

Makuta reported that the district's geothermal project in the high school locker room is moving along as expected and that the next phase is drilling holes. The project will also take place at the West Penn Elementary School, with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for July 12 at 3 p.m. The work will be done by McClure Company, Harrisburg.

The auxiliary committee also approved an agreement with Lehigh Carbon Community College for Associate Degree Nursing students to use Tamaqua Area School District as part of their Clinical Experience for the 2011-2012 school year, as well as a request from school administration for the school nurses, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital to provide and administer vaccinations (influenza, tetanus, and meningitis) free of charge to students at a yet-to-be determined date during the 2011-2012 school year. The committee also approved an agreement with the Blue Mountain Health System to provide the "Healthy Smiles, Happy Kids" Dental Van for the 2011-2012 school year, to be reimbursed $7.50 per dental examination.

In personnel matters, Mary Ruth Taylor was hired as a substitute teacher for the 2011-2012 school year.

A roof replacement project at the high school was also given the green light. The work is being completed by Weatherproofing Technologies at the cost of $133,665.29. Makuta explained that a portion of the roof was leaking, and it was important to get it fixed, as it is above the new locker rooms.

Business Manager Connie Ligenza reported that she is currently shopping for a new insurance package. "All of the quotes we've received have been lower than our current provider, so that's good news," she said.

The board also authorized an asbestos abatement project at West Penn's boiler room. The bid was awarded to lowest bidder Sargent Enterprises, Inc. at the cost of $8,974.00. The work would take place on the cast iron section of the boiler.

The board also authorized Arthur Oakes, Director of Buildings and Grounds, to advertise the sale of a chiller from Tamaqua Elementary School. Makuta said that the item will likely be advertised online.