Palmerton Area School Board continues to review the 2013-14 budget in an effort to whittle down a 1.18-mill increase as currently constructed.

Business Manager Diane Serfass gathered with the board's Budget and Finance Committee and various department heads on Thursday for the first of two budget workshops.

Among the budgets that were reviewed include S.S. Palmer/Parkside Elementary; Towamensing Elementary; Curriculum, Athletics, and Technology.

The Athletic Department budget comes in at $471,702, and includes the cost for coaches, officials, uniforms, busing, and the stipends for the athletic director and athletic trainer; the Curriculum budget is currently at $241,200; of that, $210,000 is for the new English Language Arts Book Series, grades K-6; and the Technology budget comes in at $228,686.

The Palmer-Parkside/S.S. Palmer budget is at $93,950, while Towamensing Elementary is at $69,733.

Non-capital requests came in at $90,475, which includes laptops, printers, two basketball backboards, and chairs and desks at the high school, among other items. Capital items came in at $64,000, which would be for a new man lift, new tractor loader, zero-turn lawn mower, and an auto-scrubber to do the floors in the junior high and senior high buildings.

Serfass then reviewed a schedule of debt service payments with regard to how they pay out over the life of the bond issues.

She said that in 2017-18, the 2010 bond will be paid in full; in 2019-20, the 2012 bond refinance will be paid in full; in 2022-23, MNT Bank will be paid in full; and in 2025-26, the 2010 bond A will be paid in full. On average, the district's debt service payments are around $1.6 million per year, which counts interest and principal, Serfass said.

Serfass then gave a history of budgets and ending fund balances.

Another budget workshop has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11.

Thursday's workshop came several days after the board unanimously agreed on Tuesday to grant proposed preliminary adoption to next year's $28,611,621 spending plan, as recommended, to comply with the timelines dictated by Act 1 of 2006.

The proposed preliminary budget would raise the millage rate 1.18-mills, from 51.44 to 53.52 mills. The board intends to seek approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, or the Carbon County Court, for all referendum exceptions for which the district qualifies.

The district will continue to work to gather additional information in order to refine planned expenditures for the 2013-14 fiscal year, in order to minimize the impact to the taxpayers.

Earlier this month, Serfass told the board her recommendation was to raise taxes to the full index, and to apply for any exceptions it qualifies for. The only exception the district currently 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.

The preliminary proposed budget is due to the state by Jan. 31; the proposed budget, Feb. 20; the proposed final budget, May 29; and final budget adoption, June 28.

On March 7, 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, Serfass previously said.

A public presentation of the proposed final budget will be given in the high school auditorium on May 14, said Serfass, who added June 18 would then be the target date to adopt the final budget.

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 Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System obligation.

The spending plan also calls 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 Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (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.

Afterward, the board approved to authorize 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 were to have been placed in a separate account.