Northern Lehigh School District continues to crunch numbers in an effort to pare down a projected $1.2 million shortfall in the 2011-12 school year.

It may just be able to get there through the potential creation of an employee incentive plan that could save the district about $1 million, the school board was informed on Monday.

Business manager Jeremy Melber told the board a proposed 15-percent increase in insurance costs has been whittled down to 8-percent, or a $190,000 savings to the district.

But, with the expected loss of $825,000 in basic education funding coupled with a $450,000 increase in salary and benefits, the board is still faced with a $1.2 million deficit, Melber said.

However, he said the district may be able to shave about $200,000 from that, which would leave it with about a $1 million deficit that could be offset by the possible creation of an incentive plan for the district's high-end teachers.

Melber said the incentive plan would ask those high-end teachers - who account for about $111,000 per position - to retire and not be replaced - which would result in a savings of over $1 million with its fund balance and long range plan.

The incentive plan will be presented to the board for approval at the Jan. 10 meeting, Melber said.

Another decision Melber said the board will have to make is whether it wants to pass a resolution to not go above the Act 1 tax index, or got out to referendum. The district's Act 1 tax index is currently set at 1.9-percent, or 1.22 mills.

If the board agrees to stay within the Act 1 tax index, he said the board would have until May to adopt a preliminary budget. If not, he said the board would have to adopt a preliminary budget by February.

"If things go our way, we could save enough to make up the deficit," Melber said. "If not, we could face tough cuts."

Last month, Melber told the board that the district will likely lose about $1.2 million in state funding in the 2011-12 school year; $825,000 in basic education funding, and another $365,000 in Accountability Block Grant funding.

In June, the board approved the 2010-11 budget with a 2.38-percent, or 1.5-mill increase that raised the millage rate from 62.873 to 64.373 mills in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, paid $3,219 in property taxes to the district this year, $75 more than last year's $3,144 rate.

In a related matter, Superintendent Michael Michaels told the board several of the district's administrative staff plan to meet with some of its existing contractors "to try to negotiate to lower existing rates."

Michaels said the district could save $10,000 on energy costs.

In other business, the board:

Ÿ Approved the 2010-11 Northern Lehigh District Salary Schedule as presented.

Ÿ Approved budgetary transfers for the 2010-11 school year, including any budgetary transfers for the end of year audit.

Ÿ Reappointed, on an 8-0 vote, Director Lori Geronikos as the district's Lehigh Career & Technical Institute representative from Dec. 2010 through Dec. 2013. Geronikos was absent.

Ÿ Resolved, the boar of education approves Portnoff Law Associates as delinquent real estate tax collectors for the Northern Lehigh School District for the 2010 tax year.

Ÿ Approved the resolution directing Northampton County Tax Bureau not to collect delinquent taxes on behalf of Northern Lehigh School District as presented.

Ÿ Approved the resolution directing Lehigh County Tax Claim Bureau not to collect delinquent taxes on behalf of Northern Lehigh School District as presented.

Ÿ Approved the request of employee #220 to take an unpaid leave of absence beginning Feb. 12, 2011, and continue until the end of the 2010-11 school year. She was previously granted a family medical leave, which ends on Feb. 11, 2011. She plans to return to her current teaching position at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.

Ÿ Approved Kristin Mikulski as an unpaid volunteer aide in the Peters and Slatington elementary schools for the 2010-11 school year, pending verification of clearances.

Ÿ Approved substitute teachers Adam Busocker and Katie Fluke as CLIU Guest Teacher for the 2010-11 school year at the 2010-11 substitute teacher rates as approved on the supplementary personnel salary schedule.

Ÿ Approved changes to school board policy #324 - Administrative Employees - Personnel Files, as presented after second reading.

Ÿ Approved changes to school board policy #424 - Professional Employees - Personnel Files, as presented after second reading.

Ÿ Approved changes to school board policy #524 - Non-Professional Employees - Personnel Files, as presented after second reading.

Ÿ Approved administrative regulation #216-AR - Maintenance and Dissemination of Student Records, as presented after second reading.

Ÿ Approved administrative regulation #800-AR-1 - Records and Retention Schedule, as presented after second reading.

Ÿ Approved administrative regulation #200-AR - Enrollment of Students, as presented after second reading.

Ÿ Approved the High School Program of Studies Book for the 2011-12 school year as presented and recommended by administration.

Ÿ Approved the school board committee meeting calendar for 2011.