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JT board settles on 2.67 mill increase

Published May 25. 2010 05:00PM

After many weeks of deliberation and discussion, the Jim Thorpe Area School District approved its final budget for the 2010-2011 school year at its weekly meeting Monday night.

The final budget includes a 2.67 mill increase and was put into effect by a 5-2 vote, opposed by board members Ellen Kattner and Gerald Strubinger. Michael Hartman and board President Dennis McGinley both chose to abstain from voting.

Prior to the final motion, Kattner voiced her displeasure with the proposed budget, claiming it was calculated improperly. She elaborated, stating that when she calculated the submitted financial totals herself, she found them to be $50,000 less than what the board's report claimed. Moreover, no one was able to fully explain these errors to her.

"I don't feel good about this budget," Kattner said. "I guess no one reads the papers and sees what works for other districts."

Clem McGinley, a member of the board's Finance and Insurance Committee, attempted to address the disparities in computation. He admitted that at the board's last meeting, the data he presented was miscalculated and therefore incorrect. The previously reported breakeven point for home assessment the price at which the value of a property equals its cost under the proposed budget was reported to be $69,000, whereas it is actually $43,275.

School district business manager and board financial secretary Lauren Kovac, per the request of her colleagues, then revealed the formula used to calculate these totals: the home's assessed value is divided by 1,000 and that number is then multiplied by the budget's millage rate increase, 2.67.

"From there, we calculate the taxpayer's exclusion," Kovac said. "Believe me, the assessed value we report is the home's assessed value."

Upon hearing Kovac's explanation, Strubinger asked to have treasurer's reports submitted at every meeting, to avoid further confusion and "stay close to the figures." Kovac balked, saying such documents could only be made available at the first meeting of every month, as that is when the bank statements are received.

Ultimately, Strubinger held mixed feelings toward the budget.

"I thought we could have held off of approving the budget for another week," he said. "We have to go right back to looking at it after July 1."

Despite his qualms with the final outcome, Strubinger commended the work of finance committee head Randall Smith, who was able to reduce the mill increase from its original 4.17 to its current 2.67.

In other business, the board discussed the hiring of 10 summer workers, five students and five adults, to assist the school district's janitorial staff.

Combined, the workers' salaries will cost the district $23,000, a sum accounted for within the newly-approved budget.

The motion was approved 8-0, as President McGinley once again abstained from voting.

Additional staff changes included the acceptance of the resignations of Jim Thorpe High School's head baseball coach Kenneth Eck, the district's assistant athletic director Ted LaRizzio and Jim Thorpe Junior High School assistant football coach Christopher Kasian.

The board passed all three motions 9-0 and also unanimously agreed to post the three vacancies.

The resignation of longtime Jim Thorpe High School special education teacher Joe O'Donnell was also announced and subsequently accepted by the board with a 9-0 vote.

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