Does Palmerton Area School District have enough money to continue to accommodate custodial overtime pay?

Policy #707, Use of School Facilities, was debated at great length as part of a workshop meeting of the board of school directors on Tuesday.

Joseph Faenza, director of facilities, said there are 4.25 employees staffed at the junior/senior high who cover 55,000 square feet of space, which equates to about 36,470 square feet per person.

From March of 2010 through March of 2011, Faenza said the custodial staff, districtwide, had accumulated 235 1/2 hours of overtime for after school activities, sporting events, and meetings, in addition to having a custodian scheduled on weekends from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. He said there are 202 hours of overtime scheduled, and added "we do not have the staff to slide somebody."

Faenza said he has one custodian who works in the daytime, and three who work at night. He noted the district lost 29-percent of its custodial workforce when the board cut two full time and two part-time employees as part of this year's budget.

Director Tina Snyder questioned the matter of overtime.

"We don't have money in the budget for that overtime," Snyder said. "Who's paying for it?

Director Carl Bieling concurred with Snyder's sentiment.

"If you don't have the money to do it, than you can't do it," Bieling said. "We're paying a person time-and-a-half to basically do nothing."

Superintendent Carol Boyce then asked whether it was the board's pleasure to close the buildings down.

"They belong to the community," Boyce said. "You have to have the financial means to have the staffing, and we don't have the staffing."

Director Chuck Myers suggested the board fund the overtime from out of the district's fund balance and look at Pay to Play for the next several years.

School board candidate Josann Harry asked whether the board could shift some of the staff to the weekend.

Board President Barry Scherer said it appears as though the consensus of the board was to take one of the custodians off a Friday night shift and have him work Saturdays.

Snyder said "in this economy, people have to be flexible."

Scherer suggested another option.

"We may have to squeeze the PTO's hours to fit the coverage," Scherer said. "That's just the way it has to be."

Contacted this morning, Boyce said she and Faenza would look at the budgeted amounts "to see what the impact is going to be."

"The board requested us going back to the drawing board to see if there's anything we can do to do any schedule changes," Boyce said. "That's the first step; we need to see what the requests for usage are, and see can we accommodate that within the board adopted budget."

Boyce added "if we do not have the money to accommodate the overtime, then the buildings would not be open for use."

"We don't want the public to panic that we're canceling everything," she said. "It's still under study, and to see if other accommodations can be made."

Boyce said the matter "is yet another impact of the budget cuts school districts have had to face."

Also on Tuesday, Boyce announced the possibility that this year's graduation class could hold commencement exercises on June 4 at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe.

"That's the preferred date," Boyce said. "It's really a very, very nice set up."

Boyce said the senior class has indicated it would like to contribute some toward the fee to hold graduation at the facility.

"That's what the consensus of the class seemed to be; the kids did not want to graduate from a different school," she said. "The kids want to do it; it's a great place."