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Palmerton district discusses funding large future projects

Published August 06. 2010 05:00PM

Palmerton Area School District continues to mull over its options to fund larger scale projects.

To that end, a potential three-year expenditure supposition was discussed at a workshop session of the board of school directors on Tuesday.

Created by business manager Lisa Vignone at the behest of the board, the supposition presumed level funding on all department line items, as well as a 3 percent increase in salary and 5 percent increase in benefits in each of the next three years.

The supposition also presumed a category known as other, which refers to the other agencies with whom the district does business, such as the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit, outplacement providers where some of the district's students receive services, and places with whom the district has educational service contracts, whereby the district anticipates a possible 10 percent increase.

Superintendent Carol Boyce noted the district's building budgets have been "flat funded for at least the last four years," and cautioned that if the district were to continue that process over the next three years, such a decision could ultimately result in programmatic and instructional cuts.

"All of the vendors and suppliers with whom we do business have continually increased, while our available money has not," Boyce said. "We are at the stage where we will have to eliminate educational necessities from the budget unless we increase those budget lines, (such as) supplies, books and other requirements of the educational process."

Director Carl Bieling said the news didn't surprise him, as he had anticipated it for some time.

Board President Barry Scherer asked whether the district could move up its budget process, to which Vignone said it could attempt to do so by late January, early February.

"Tell the building principals they really need to consider a zero-increase budget," Scherer said.

Boyce said the district has lost $23,000 in grant funding it was counting on in the 2010-11 school year in the educational areas, and added that it appears the only way it will be able to afford to pay for any major facilities and buildings and grounds projects is through the bonding process.

But, Bieling noted the district would be responsible for paying back whatever money it borrows, to which Boyce concurred.

Boyce said she was concerned with the status of the district's fund balance, which she said has under $1 million in reserve.

"Another concern is what's left in the fund balance," Boyce said. "If something goes, we don't have enough."

What that means, Bieling said, is that the district will either have to look at exceptions or cutting.

Director Susan Debski said she believes the committee should hone in on the projects it deems as necessities.

"We need to make an agreement on what it is we're going to do," Debski said. "What is our first project that definitely needs to be done."

The consensus of the committee was that the repair of the leaky high school roof should take precedence.

In June, Alan Behnke of Tremco Roofing said the cost to restore the high school roof would be about $583,090, and would include the restoration of the boiler room roof.

Or, he said, the district could replace the roof at a cost of about $2 million.

Dave Rodrigues, director of facilities, said he believes the weightroom roof should be a top priority as well.

Behnke also noted at that time the weightroom roof is also in dire need of repair, and added that it couldn't be done until the bleacher system is addressed.

He said the cost to replace the roof would be about $133,076.

Or, the district could do a combined project that would cost $350,000; $200,000 for the bleachers, and $150,000 for the roof, Behnke said.

Boyce asked each of the committee members to narrow an extensive list of proposed projects down to a Top 10 between now and the Aug. 17 school board meeting.

Those lists could then be reviewed in time for the Sept. 7 workshop, she said.

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