Budget committee weighs costs while preparing school budget
Strike a balance between the educational needs of the students with a keen eye on how it will affect the taxpayers in the district.
Such is the task faced by Palmerton Area School Board's Budget and Finance Committee, which met on Wednesday in an attempt to piece together the 2011-12 budget.
Committee members Barry Scherer and Michael Ballard were joined by Superintendent Carol Boyce. Committee members Carl Bieling and Susan Debski were absent.
Mary Brumbach, principal of S.S. Palmer Elementary and the Parkside Education Center, checked in with a budget of $114,000, a $5,000 increase from this year's $109,000 mark.
Chief among the needs at the Parkside building is the conversion of a half-day kindergarten teacher to a full-day kindergarten teacher, Brumbach said.
"If we can solve the problem in kindergarten, we don't have a 12-year problem; we have a one-year problem," Brumbach said. "If we can get the kids when they come in, that impacts the next 12 years they're here."
Brumbach said another priority is a technology teacher, to which Boyce concurred.
"Our high school technology teachers have been saying that our kids need earlier development, earlier expertise," Boyce said.
Finally, Brumbach suggested the district look to move a part-time custodian to a full-time custodian at Parkside.
"I think it's an awful lot to handle," she said.
Ballard said he couldn't agree more.
"I was never a fan of part time here," Ballard said. "I wanted at least one [full time custodian]."
Scherer told Brumbach he could support a full-day kindergarten teacher and technology teacher.
"Considering this shows only a $5,000 increase, I think you've done an excellent job," Scherer said.
The committee then took a brief look at Boyce's budget, which reflects a $300 decrease, from $22,250 this year down to $21,975 in 2011-12.
Up next was high school athletics, presented by athletic director Bill Congdon.
Congdon said his budget represents a $1,500 decrease, from $135,075 this year down to $133,545 in 2011-12.
From there, the committee reviewed the high school budget with Principal Kathy Egan.
Egan's budget came in $7,500 less, from $308,055 this year down to $300,418 in 2011-12.
Ballard told Egan she did a "hell of a job," while Scherer said he was "impressed."
The committee next took a brief look at the business manager's budget in the absence of Lisa Vignone.
Vignone's budget, Boyce said, shows a $350 increase, from $44,050 this year to $44,400 in 2011-12.
Afterward, the committee briefly reviewed the special education budget with Bob Dailey, director of special education.
Dailey's budget reflects a $4,100 decrease, from $60,390 this year down to $56,240 in 2011-12.
As of now, the biggest increase the district will face next year rests in the form of its curriculum and instruction budget.
Sherrie Fenner, director of curriculum and instruction, told the committee her budget is slated to see a $100,000 increase.
Fenner said her bottom line is expected to rise from $134,250 this year to $235,183 in 2011-12.
The cost of textbook adoption is scheduled to increase by $100,000, Fenner said, from $80,000 this year to $180,000 in 2011-12. On top of that, Fenner said the district needs $21,000 for maps and globes districtwide.
Fenner told the committee she had made them aware of the increase in her budget several months back.
Ballard said he understood the need.
"We just got to find the money," Ballard said. "Education is our business."
At the conclusion of the session, Ballard, Scherer and Boyce said they all were pleased with the budgets as presented.
The committee will next meet at 1 p.m. Monday, when it will review the technology, human resources, junior high school, and Towamensing Elementary budgets.
This year, homeowners saw a 3.9 percent, or 1.64-mill increase, in their property tax rates after the board in June approved the budget on a 5-4 vote.
That means a person with a home valued at $100,000, which would be assessed at $50,000, paid $2,182 in property taxes to the district this year, $82 more than last year's $2,100 rate.
In the 2009-10 school year, the board passed a budget with a 2.44-percent, or 1 mill increase that resulted in a $50 increase for residents with the same home value.
Prior to that, the last time the district raised property taxes was in the 2007-08 school year, when it passed a budget with a 2.5-percent increase.