Taxes remain level in Lehighton school budget
A fourth straight year without a tax increase is on the horizon for Lehighton Area School District property owners after a unanimous preliminary budget approval from the school board this week.
The district will turn to its fund balance to reconcile a $263,474 deficit in the $40.6 million spending plan.
Lehighton Business Manager Brian Feick said the 2018-19 projected fund balance use stands in stark contrast to the $1.86 million the district has used this year.
“The big decrease is because of the consolidation savings with closing four elementary schools into one,” Feick said.
This fall, Lehighton will open its new elementary center, which will house all K-5 students in the district. Mahoning, East Penn, Franklin and Shull-David elementary schools will be closing.
According to a copy of Lehighton’s proposed 2018-19 budget, 71 percent of it is made up of salaries and benefits including 13.30 percent for contributions to the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System. Debt service principal and interest combine for $3.5 million.
In terms of new items, Lehighton is adding two part-time police officers at $30 per hour for up to 120 hours per month for 10 months. The officers’ salaries are covered by grant money, Feick said.
“We’re also budgeting for another social worker,” he added.
Lehighton hired Kerri Miller, social worker/transition coordinator, for $45,850 in 2017.
Asked how long Lehighton would be able to hold the line on property taxes, Feick said the district, in the long-term, “needs to look at areas where we may be able to save more.”
An example, he added, would be electric rates.
Final adoption of Lehighton’s 2018-19 budget is scheduled for June.
The full budget is available for review at https://bit.ly/2IM1b1a.
With the impending closing of its elementary schools, the district is gifting some of its excess items to surrounding municipalities.
On Monday, the school board approved transfers of:
• Surplus steel beams for the elementary center to the Lehighton Water Authority for use as a temporary bridge at Pine Run Reservoir.
• A pavilion from Mahoning Elementary to Mahoning Township for use at its park.
• Metal benches from all four elementary schools to East Penn Township for use at the Riverview Park outdoor classroom.
• Concrete benches from East Penn Elementary to East Penn Township for use in the veterans memorial area of Marvin Gardens Park.
• Playground equipment from Shull-David and Franklin elementary, in the sole discretion of district administration, to Franklin Township.
• A Civil War plaque from Mahoning Elementary to Mahoning Township.
The cost of all relocation will be paid by the municipality.
A faster way for students to get breakfast is on the way to the district.
Lehighton received a $3,500 grant in an effort to encourage students to take part in school breakfast.
Pennsylvania currently ranks 41st in the country for its number of breakfast meals served.
“The challenge has been to find the best way of making breakfast accessible for students so, with this funding, we will be adding a grab and go option,” Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said.