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Palmerton residents see a 3.9 percent increase

Published June 16. 2010 05:00PM

Residents who live in the Palmerton Area School District will see a 3.9 percent increase in their property tax rates next year.

The school board on a 5-4 vote granted final adoption to the 2010-11 budget, which calls for a 1.64 mill increase that will raise the millage rate from 42 to 43.64 mills.

The adoption of the budget means a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, will pay $2,182 in property taxes to the district next year, $82 more than this year's $2,100 rate.

Directors Darlene Yeakel, Carl Bieling, Tina Snyder, Stuart Henritzy and Susan Debski voted in favor of the budget. Directors Carol Dwyer, Michael Ballard, Clarence Myers and board President Barry Scherer were opposed.

District business manager Lisa Vignone previously said salaries and benefits are set to increase by $229,141, from $15,205,016 in 2009-10 to $15,434,157 in 2010-11.

Meanwhile, the amount of grants the district will receive will decrease by $28,210, from $1,187,527 in 2009-10 to $1,159,317 in 2010-11, Vignone said.

Last year, the district adopted a budget for the 2009-10 school year that called for a 2.44 percent, or 1 mill increase.

The $25,488,593 spending plan raised the millage rate from 41 to 42 mills. That meant a person who owned a $100,000 home, which was assessed at $50,000, paid $2,100, or $50 more, to the district in property taxes.

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.

However, the $26,466,378 spending plan does not include the restoration of an additional full-day kindergarten position at the Parkside Education Center after the board rejected the measure on a 5-4 vote.

Dwyer, Bieling, Snyder, Debski, and Henritzy rejected the proposal. Yeakel, Ballard, Myers and Scherer were in favor.

Superintendent Carol Boyce previously said Towamensing Elementary already has a half-day kindergarten teacher this year, but won't need it next year. As a result, she said the half-day kindergarten teacher will come over to the Parkside Education Center next year.

The district currently has one full-day kindergarten teacher on staff at Towamensing, while Parkside also has one full-day kindergarten teacher.

If the board had chosen to move the position from part-time to full-time at Parkside, it would have called for a $26,494,978 spending plan.

Bridgette Gorman, a teacher at S.S. Palmer Elementary, said that in the business of education, children need to be first and foremost.

"Research shows that smaller classrooms work," Gorman said. "Please, if you're going to make decisions about class size, think of how it would impact your child in a class of 30."

Gorman said it wasn't fair to the teachers who had to switch.

"I feel that every year I'm in my grade level, I feel more comfortable," she said. "Our new principal, Mrs. Brumbach, has been put in charge of cleaning up the messes that have been accumulating."

Gorman noted the district has met Adequate Yearly Progress in recent years.

"Who will be blamed next year if we don't meet AYP, us," she said. "This upheaval has had a devastating effect on our teachers."

Gorman said she doesn't believe the district has acted in the best interests of student education.

"These moves are not being done in the best interests of our children," she said. "It doesn't make any sense shuffling people for the sake of it."

Gorman said that as teachers, it would be nice to be treated as peers.

"I'm an excellent teacher, and I'm dynamic," she said. "It's time I be heard."

Scherer told Gorman the board is appreciative of the teachers and principals in the district but said "this is a very difficult seat to sit in."

"We have an obligation to the children, and we have an obligation to the taxpayers, and we need to balance those. We certainly care and believe in education and our educators," he added.

Gayle Behr, a recently retired teacher in the district, said kindergarten teachers were never asked their opinion on the matter.

Behr suggested the district follow the same procedure as it did when students were tested at both the Parkside Education Center and Towamensing Elementary.

"The two scores were not the same; it's totally different children," Behr said. "You should have asked the kindergarten teachers what they thought and feel."

Brumbach then explained the district's rationale for the position.

"Our intent in creating a full-day kindergarten position was to meet the needs of the students for testing," Brumbach said. "There was no research, and any test needs to have some credible research to it."

Further, Brumbach said the number utilized was a quotient score, and was done to ensure that it was "equittable."

"I know we don't want to spend more money, but I think we need to be mindful that we have a per pupil allocation that can identify children that are at risk," Brumbach said. "To me, it seems like money well spent."

Boyce said the population is centered at the Parkside Education Center.

"As a district, we must treat the entire student body with equity," Boyce said. "This is why we chose a districtwide norm assessment test."

Boyce said that the board will have to decide at the July workshop what criteria for test scores should be used so that the number at Towamensing equates to the same at Parkside.

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