Without any furloughs, Lehighton Area School Board has approved the final budget for the 2012-2013 school year, with no real estate tax increase.

"We have a strong school district right now and we're happy to be able to give our taxpayers a break," school board President Rocky Ahner said.

"We've been saving money. So, we're able to not raise taxes this year with no furloughs."

In a related matter, the school board also approved the 2012-2013 Homestead and Farmstead Exclusions. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of real estate. Homestead and Farmstead Exclusions reduce the assessed value of a property. That means that the taxpayer owes less tax.

A homestead property is a dwelling primarily used by an owner as his or her permanent home. Homestead properties do not include rental units, vacation homes, camps, or other homes in which the owner does not live on a permanent basis.

Similarly, the farmstead exclusion is a method of targeting real property tax relief to farmers. It allows tax relief to farmers on the taxes they pay on farm buildings other than the farmhouse, which receives tax breaks through the homestead exclusion so long as at least one farm owner lives on that farm.

In another major move, the school board hired Jonathan J. Cleaver as superintendent of LASD beginning July 1. A former teacher, assistant principal, and principal, Cleaver has served LASD as coordinator of Curriculum, Instruction, and Grants for the past two years.

Looking forward to his new role, Cleaver said, "The school district being the hub of a community, I think it's our responsibility to continue moving forward and helping to improve the whole community."

Cleaver replaces James Kraky, who is retiring after having served as LASD superintendent since 2007. Kraky's last day with the school district will be June 30.

Since April 1, longtime LASD teacher and administrator Dr. Terence Maher has been assisting the school district as a consultant to manage the transition from Kraky's retirement to finding a new superintendent.

Dr. Maher had worked in the district for more than 26 years including nearly 10 years as assistant superintendent. After being passed over for the top job in Lehighton, he was hired as superintendent by Pine Grove Area School District. He is now retired.

In a related move, LAHS Principal Tim Tkach was administratively transferred to replace Cleaver. The school district will now search for a new high school principal to replace Tkach.

"This administrative alignment will save the school district approximately $72,000 over a three-year period," said Ahner.

"It's important to note that you can move up in the school district. We don't always hire from 'outside,'" he added.

In addition, the school board hired Stephen M. Hluschak, Jr. as permanent, full-time social studies teacher; Jonathan Hakim as long-term business education substitute teacher; Meggyn Hauck as long-term language arts substitute teacher; and Hal C. Resh and Joy Smith as paraprofessionals.

Athletic hires for the 2012-2013 school year include Brandon Brownmiller as middle school wrestling coach; Amanda Dietz as head girls' soccer coach; Stephen Hampton as assistant girls' soccer coach; Richard Hunsicker as freshman boys' basketball coach; John Lopata as fall game manager; and Eric Pagotto as volunteer cross country coach.

Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services, Inc. was hired to conduct the K-12 alcohol, tobacco, and other drug education prevention programs and services for LASD for the 2012-2013 school year.

School board member Larry Stern was reappointed to Lehigh Carbon Community College board of trustees.

In other business, the board approved a licensing agreement with iHigh.com for the sale of licensed merchandise through Walmart. LASD will receive 50 percent of the total receipts from any sales – less expenses – from iHigh.com.

On behalf of the school board, Ahner thanked elementary Principal Suzanne Howland and those involved in the LASD Response to Instruction and Intervention Program for their roles in organizing the third annual Lehighton School and Community Educational/Safety Program. This popular free event took place on June 14 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.

The next meeting of Lehighton Area School Board is scheduled for Monday, July 23 at 7 p.m. at LASD Administration Building, Conference Room A. The public is encouraged to attend.

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