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Budget workshop is scheduled

Published May 31. 2011 05:00PM

Palmerton Area School District will hold yet another budget workshop to review next year's spending plan.

This time, the school board will hold a special meeting for financial and personnel considerations, immediately followed by a budget workshop, at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the high school auditorium.

Last month, the board, on a 7-2 vote, agreed to grant proposed final adoption to the 2011-12 proposed budget, which calls for a 12.6 percent, or 5.506-mill, increase.

If the board were to approve the 2011-12 budget with a 5.506-mill increase, that would raise the millage rate from 43.64 to 49.14 mills. That would mean a person with a home valued at $100,000 and assessed at $50,000 would pay $2,457, or $277 more in property taxes to the district next year.

The proposed budget calls for a reduction in department and building budgets ($201,920); an increase to the Special Education budget ($403,086); an increase to the CCTI budget ($ 223,443); a reduction in Donation to the Palmerton Public Library ($3,350); a reduction in student activity program offerings ($38,561); a reduction in athletic program offerings ($66,300); and administrative and confidential staff unconditional pay freeze ($36,542).

Budget adjustments through grant elimination would include: Dual Enrollment Tuition ($8,411); Education Assistance Program ($50,237), which would mean the elimination of after school tutoring, supplemental programs, supplies, and staff development; Accountability Block Grant ($293,744), which would entail the elimination of after school programs, summer program, substitutes for staff meetings, supplies, software, curriculum writing, conferences and professional services; and a reduction in staffing costs ($1,245,945) to not fill two vacant teaching positions; to reduce one teaching position to 80 percent; to furlough 12 teaching positions; to furlough 10.5 support staff positions; to furlough one administrative position; to eliminate all curriculum writing; and to eliminate summer maintenance.

Board President Barry Scherer said at that time the proposed cuts would include five high school teachers; 4.5 elementary teachers; one elementary teacher and one high school teacher through attrition; four teacher specialists, three at the elemtary level, and one at the high school level; 1.5, or the equivalent of three part-time, secretaries; two full-time and two part-time custodians; six instructional assistants, and one administrator.

He also noted "there will be reassignments as far as the administrative staff is concerned."

Tiffani Christman, president of the Palmerton Youth Wrestling Cheerleading Association, told the board at that time that the Save Our Sports Committee has been able to raise enough money through donations to save the sports programs.

Christman said at that time the donations means there will be a $66,300 savings to the district. She said high school athletic director/Associate Principal Bill Congdon has indicated that $22,831 in athletic budget cuts could be made, which, coupled with the $43,469 the SOS committee was able to raise, means all the sports except for tennis will be able to be reinstated into next year's budget, she said.

However, Christman told the board the committee would like to see a separate account set up for the funds so that once the budgeted monies are depleted, the money it raised wouldn't be transferred to the district's general fund.

Scherer said at that time the board had to talk to its financial consultant and attorney "for the legality of setting up a separate account."

The proposed budget already has the athletic program cuts in it, he said, and added that the board still had to come up with another $28,000 worth of cuts in order to meet next year's proposed $26,143,747 budget. That figure represents a $340,568 decrease over this year's spending plan.

Scherer said the 2011-12 estimated class sizes at S.S. Palmer Parkside is as follows: kindergarten, four teachers, two classes of 20 students and two classes of 21 students; first grade, four teachers, with four classes of 21; second grade, four teachers, with two classes of 18 and two classes of 19; third grade, three teachers, with two classes of 28, and one class of 29; fourth grade, three teachers, with two classes of 30 and one class of 31; fifth grade, three teachers, with two classes at 29 and one class of 30; and sixth grade, four teachers, with three classes of 28 and one class of 29.

The 2011-12 estimated class sizes at Towamensing, Scherer said, is as follows: kindergarten, one teacher, with two classes of 22 students; first grade, two teachers, with one class of 19 and one class of 20; second grade, three teachers, with three classes of 20; third grade, two teachers, with one class of 22 and once class of 23; fourth grade, two teachers, with two classes of 33; fifth grade, three teachers, with one class of 21 and two classes of 22; and sixth grade, two teachers, with two classes of 27.

Final adoption of the 2011-12 budget is expected when the board meets at 7 p.m. June 21.

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 2010-11 budget on a 5-4 vote that raised the millage rate from 42 to 43.64 mills.

That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, which was assessed at $50,000, paid $2,182 in property taxes to the district, $82 more than the $2,100 rate they paid in 2009-10 when 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.

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