Budget, dress code, topics of special board meeting today
A pair of noteworthy topics will be tackled head-on later today as part of a special meeting of the Palmerton Area School Board.
The 2010-11 budget, as well as the controversial dress code policy, are the only two items of business listed for discussion when the board meets at 5 p.m.
Earlier this month, the board on an 8-1 vote granted tentative adoption of the 2010-11 budget, which calls for a 3.9-percent, or 1.64 mill, increase.
In its current incarnation, the $26,589,136 spending plan would raise the millage rate from 42 to 43.64 mills. The maximum the board can raise the property tax rate under the Act 1 index is by 1.64 mills.
That would mean a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, would pay $2,182 in property taxes to the district next year, $82 more than this year's $2,100 rate.
Salaries and benefits are set to increase by $229,141, from $15,205,016 in 2009-10 to $15,434,157 in 2010-11.
However, the amount of grants the district will receive will decrease by $28,210, from $1,187,527 in 2009-10 to $1,159,317in 2010-11.
Final adoption of the budget is expected at the board's June 15 meeting.
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.
A major source of contention for over a year, the district's dress and grooming policy will again be revisited after arguments have been waged both for and against the idea.
Recent indications are that the district will attempt to tighten up its current policy, rather than switch to an actual uniform dress code, as expressed by a majority of school directors.
The dress and grooming policy was discussed at a board committee meeting earlier this month, when it was decided that a special meeting was needed to revisit the matter.
Before that, the board in April held a special meeting in response to a request by junior high school Principal Thaddeus Kosciolek, who said he believed the matter needed to be revisited because instances where the dress code is violated continue to escalate.
Kosciolek also said at that time he hoped the district would consider the adoption of a dress code similar to one adopted by the Tamaqua Area School District. He said Panther Valley and Pleasant Valley school districts have also adopted new dress codes.
Larry Wittig, president of Tamaqua Area School Board, attended that special meeting to discuss the successful dress code that was implemented in the Tamaqua Area School District five years ago.
Jim Thorpe Area School District last month adopted a new dress code for its students that will go into effect at the start of next school year.
Kosciolek said that in instances where students are in violation of the dress code, parents are called and asked to bring in something else to wear. If not, the students are placed in in-school suspension, he said.
High school Principal Kathy Egan said the school has extra Palmerton Blue Bomber T-shirts, which students have the option to wear. Egan added at that time that a current problem pertains to the length of shorts worn by girls in the high school, where she said about 50 percent are not in compliance.
Based on the suggestions he heard from the committee, as well as the public who were on hand, board President Barry Scherer said the district will attempt to tighten up the policy, instill the consequences, and track the number of incidents.
The committee also discussed the possible formation of a districtwide committee to review the policy at some point. Kosciolek then asked the committee for time to come up with suggestions to make the policy more specific.