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School district continues to cultivate spending plan

Published December 21. 2010 05:00PM

Palmerton Area School Board's Budget and Finance Committee continues to cultivate next year's spending plan.

On Monday, the committee reviewed the district's facilities, technology, human resources, junior high school, and Towamensing Elementary budgets for the 2011-12 school year.

Committee members Barry Scherer, Michael Ballard and Susan Debski were joined by Superintendent Carol Boyce. Committee member Carl Bieling was not in attendance.

In its current form, the facilities budget calls for about a 3 to 3.5-percent increase. That's due to a $26,757 spike, from $61,958 this year, to $88,715 in 2011-12, in the principal for the energy savings performance contract, which will be paid off in 2023. In addition, there is also an expected $14,000 increase in the cost of natural gas.

Boyce said she believes the district "will be able to save even more with the prices in the bond issue."

Scherer agreed, and said "I think there's still some room where we'll be able to trim."

The technology budget is scheduled to rise by over $11,000, from $183,318 this year to $194,692 in 2011-12.

Dan Heaney, director of technology, said the increases are due to software and repairs to the phone system.

The human resources budget is slated to see about an $11,000 increase, from $8,616 this year to $19,786 in 2011-12.

Debra Demyanovich, director of human resources, said professional services from various departments have been transferred to her budget, which accounted for $10,100.

Scherer said the human resources budget was in line with what the district anticipated.

"Last year was a base budget," Scherer said.

Towamensing Elementary is expected to see a near $16,000 increase, from $61,481 this year to $76,119 in 2011-12.

Principal Christine Steigerwalt said a $14,000 increase to purchase consumable textbooks accounts for most of her building's increase, as well as the rising costs of copy paper.

Ballard said the committee shouldn't be surprised by the bottom line.

"We knew that was coming back this year," Ballard said.

Also as part of her budget, Steigerwalt said she would like to request a technology teacher that would be split between Towamensing and S.S. Palmer Elementary.

Steigerwalt said the technology teacher would spend one-third of the day at Towamensing, and the other two-thirds at S.S. Palmer.

The junior high school budget will only see a modest $1,292 increase, from $47,919 this year to $49,211 in 2011-12.

Principal Thaddeus Kosciolek said his slight increase is due to the extra cost for copy paper and instructional supplies.

Kosciolek told the committee he would like to request a part-time secretary to work several days a week to help relieve some of the busy workload from full-time secretary Denise Strohl.

"She's never once complained; I just don't feel it's fair to her to be that stressed," Kosciolek said. "I just feel that it's a need that we have."

Ballard said he understood Kosciolek's perspective.

"You've tried this for a number of years to get her extra help," Ballard said. "You're not talking a lot of money here."

Both Ballard and Scherer told Kosciolek they were pleased with his budget.

Afterward, Boyce said the committee's next task is to fine tune the facilities budget. From there, a preliminary budget will be proposed, likely sometime after the holidays, she said.

Last week, the committee reviewed budgets for the S.S. Palmer/Parkside Education Center, high school, curriculum and instruction, special education, athletic director, business manager, and superintendent.

"I really do commend the administrative staff right across the board for being able to put together a budget that I think holds the line in terms of cost," Boyce said. "We can't run a household budget without expecting some type of increase."

Boyce said the staff has done all it can to keep costs down.

"These people, for a number of years, have contained the educational costs so that they are contained to within several thousand dollars," she said. "In these days of rising costs, we've trimmed everywhere we can possibly trim without hurting the educational process."

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.

Before 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.

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