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District could save money withits own speech therapy program

Published March 13. 2012 05:01PM

Northern Lehigh School District could realize a cost savings through the implementation of its own speech therapy program.

Scot Engler, director of special education, told the school board on Monday that the program would cost the district $470,000 through the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21 in the 2012-13 school year.

However, if the district were to provide its own speech therapy program with assistance from Pediatric Therapy Speech, Engler said it would cost the district between $200,000 to $250,000 for the first year, contingent upon the number of students. Engler estimated 138 students would need the service.

Currently, Engler said the district pays $140,000 for students to continue to receive speech through the IU because they are in IU classes, which could result in a savings anywhere from $80,000 to $130,000.

Engler said he expects to bring a contract to the school board at next month's meeting.

In a related matter, Superintendent Michael Michaels expressed concerns with the 2012-13 budget.

Michaels said at its administrative team meeting next week, administrators will discuss several cost containment measures.

Rhonda Frantz, co-director of Business Affairs/Employee Payroll & Benefits, said a preliminary budget will be shared at the next Finance Committee meeting.

In December, the board agreed to adopt a resolution that says it will not raise taxes above the Act 1 index in the 2012-13 school year.

That decision means the district will leave the index at 1.7-percent, whereby the adjusted index is 2.3-percent.

In June, the board adopted this year's $28,787,461 budget, which left the property tax rate unchanged at 64.373 mills in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, again paid $3,219 in property taxes to the district next year.

The district was able to offset a potential $1.5 million shortfall in that budget with the creation of an early retirement incentive plan that saw 14 teachers agree to be included in the plan.

The board agreed to adopt the plan for all eligible professional employees, on a voluntary basis, for the 2010-11 school year. The program asked those high-end teachers who account for about $111,000 per position to retire and not be replaced, which resulted in a savings of over $1 million in the district's fund balance and long-range plan.

The offer was a one-time only program that enabled teachers in the district to submit a letter in writing that said they would retire from the district.

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