Palmerton Area School District's 2013-14 budget picture is coming into focus as the number-crunching ensues.
Business Manager Diane Serfass presented several millage scenarios to the school board's Budget and Finance Committee on Monday relative to next year's spending plan.
Serfass said those scenarios call for either a zero-mill, half-mill, three-quarter-mill, one-mill, 1.18-mill (to the index), or 1.74-mill (index plus exceptions) increase.
A zero-mill increase would leave the current millage rate of 51.44 mills in check, which would mean a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, would again pay $2,572 in property taxes to the district.
Under that same assessment, the adjusted millage rate to the property tax rate would be as follows: .50-mill, 51.94 mills, $25 increase to $2,597; .75-mill, 52.19 mills, $37-$38 increase to $2,610; one-mill, 52.44 mills, $50 increase to $2,622; 1.18-mill, 52.63 mills, $59 increase to $2,631; and 1.74-mill, 53.19-mills, $87 increase to $2,659.
Of those, the consensus of the board was to stay within a zero to .50-mill increase. Serfass was then instructed to prepare budgets with those rates for the board's workshop scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 7.
Some of the recommendations made by the committee were for one full-time reading specialist ($88,890); various computers/projectors/labs ($85,775); maintenance needs ($39,000); one part-time custodian ($23,000); summer maintenance ($19,000); the refurbishing of five tennis courts ($6,796); and the Carbon County Inmate Program ($6,000).
Director Susan Debski told the board she believes it needs to look not only at this coming year's budget, but beyond as well.
"Where's that decision going to put you in two to three years," Debski said. "I would like to do something to have a little bit of a safety net."
Director Charles Gildner said he believes the board should go with a zero-mill increase this year.
Serfass extolled praise on the board for its due diligence.
"I've got to commend you," Serfass said. "I think you've done a fantastic job weighing all options."
Director Sherry Haas said she believes administrators have done a terrific job as well.
"I think everybody worked really well with us this year," Haas said. "They were open, they were honest, and I think it made our responsibility a whole lot easier."
A public presentation of the proposed final budget will then be given at 6 p.m. May 14, in the high school auditorium, with June 18 as the target date to adopt the final budget, which must be approved by June 28, Serfass said.
In February, the board approved the 2013-14 preliminary general fund budget in the amount of $28,611,621, which, if granted final approval, would raise the millage rate 1.18 mills, from 51.44 to 52.62 mills.
That came after Serfass told the board in January that her recommendation was to raise taxes to the full index, and to apply for any exceptions it qualifies for. The only exception the district qualifies for is the retirement exception, she said.
By doing so, the board still must utilize $504,635 from its fund balance to balance the budget, Serfass said at that time.
Serfass previously said the 2013-14 base index is 1.7 percent, but the district's has been adjusted to 2.3 percent based on its wealth. As a result, the most millage could increase without an approved exception or approved referendum is 1.18 mills, she said.
She also previously said PDE will inform the district whether its proposed tax rate increase is less than, or equal to, the index, at which time the district must seek PDE approval for exceptions.
This past June, the board adopted the 2012-13 spending plan, which called for a 4.68-percent, or 2.30-mill increase, in the property tax rate.
The $27,267,701 budget raised the millage rate from 49.14 to 51.44 mills, which means a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, had to pay $2,572, or $115 more, in property taxes to the district.
As part of that approval, the board authorized $179,700 of the 2012-13 committed fund balance to be allocated to the payment of the district's 2013-14 state Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) obligation.
That spending plan also called for the use of $272,486 from the fund balance to pay for the 2011-12 positions that were restored.
Also as part of that budget, the board rejected the transfer of $44,945 from the Special Athletic Account to general fund to reimburse the expense of the wrestling, cross country, golf and tennis programs for the 2011-12 fiscal year as per the board resolution dated June 7, 2011.
Exceptions the board used as part of that budget pertained to various items that dealt with construction and debt service; special education costs; the PSERS increase; and a total millage increase of 1.17 mills.
In addition, the board rejected a motion to utilize the following formula to allocate the donation of $46,351 from the Save Our Sports group before June 30, 2012; 2011-2012 total athletic expenditures less 2011-2012 gate receipts, less 2011-2012 budgeted local revenue equals the amount of the donation to be utilized to fund the total 2011-2012 athletic program. Any remaining donated funds shall be used in the same manner in subsequent years.
Additionally, the board authorized the transfer of $32,471 from the Special Athletic Account to General Fund to fund a portion of the 2011-2012 athletic program. The remaining SOS allocation was to have been placed in a separate account.