The Jim Thorpe school board passed the 2011-2012 final budget with a 5-3 vote. The budget is set to have a 2 mill increase. The Jim Thorpe Area will see around a 4.7 percent increase in taxes.
Before the budget was voted on, the public voiced concerns about raising the taxes and how it will affect the citizens of the Jim Thorpe Area.
School Board candidates and citizens of the area, Bill Allison and John Partenio discussed how higher taxes affect everyone in the area, especially the elderly. They expressed that the burden on the taxpayers is too high.
Paul Montemuro, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Penn Forest Township suggested, "See what the public thinks. Put it out on the election and see how the public feels about taxes going up. Or, give them the opportunity to voice their opinion on which way to go with the money."
The board voted 5-3 passing the budget with a 2 mill (the value of 1 mill being $649,682) increase. Board member Randall Smith said the tax increase would be as if a taxpayer that has a $100,000 home would then have a tax increase of around $100 per year.
"The total decrease in our income for this year is about $1.5 million. That's a combination of state, federal, and local tax reimbursement. So we are $1.5 million less this year than we were last year. At the same time our expenditures are increasing; the cost of fuel and increase in teachers salaries," said board member Dr. Clem McGinley.
In trying to create a workable budget the district reduced expenditures by $2 million. Funding for activity bus runs and bus monitors have been eliminated. Instructional aides have taken pay cuts by one hour. Certain faculty members have taken pay freezes or demotions. At least 8 full-time positions will not be replaced next school year.
"We have been very successful with getting concessions from many of our employee's. It's been rather disappointing that the teachers union has not been apart of our concerns. We want to thank all of our employee's; dietary maintenance, secretarial staff, and administrative staff for stepping forward and taking a wage freeze," stated Smith.
Members of the public voiced concerns about the board speaking to the teachers union about pay freezes.
McGinley discussed that the board approached the teachers union about taking a 4 percent wage freeze. The union voted against it and gave other suggestions including to maximize the taxes (3.16 mills) in the area. The district disagreed with that option and worked to not maximize the taxes.
"This board had some tough decisions to make. I know no one wants a tax increase," stated Superintendent Barbara Conway
"I believe the board has worked hard to preserve jobs, but most importantly we preserve programs," she added.
The board stressed that some positions maybe demoted and some wages frozen but no educational or athletic programs are being eliminated.