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Lehighton board passes budget with no increase

Property taxes will remain level in Lehighton Area School District for the fourth straight year after the school board unanimously adopted the 2018-19 budget Monday night.

The $40.6 million budget will require just over $200,000 from the district’s fund balance to level out revenues and expenditures.

In the current budget year, the district is using over $1.8 million from the fund balance, according to Business Manager Brian Feick, with the big difference for 2018-19 coming in anticipated savings from school consolidation.

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.

Recent building updates at the middle and high schools have also contributed to lower costs.

“We’ve saved over $100,000 in electricity at the middle and high schools alone because of how they were renovated,” Feick said.

Salaries, $16.2 million, and benefits, $11.5 million, make up a big chunk of the expenditures. Debt principal and transfers account for $1.7 million and dues, fees and interest payments are budgeted for $2 million.

Taxes will remain at 47.88 mills.

“The business office has worked hard to put this together and it doesn’t just happen overnight,” Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said of the budget. “We hope to continue additional savings as we move forward. We’ve had a plan in place for many years of moving forward trying to find ways to save money.”

Feick said the district’s fund balance was at around 17 percent of the budget when he came on board.

“Over the last four or five years we have worked to get that down to 7 or 8 percent, where the state says it should be,” Feick said.

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.

An overview of the budget can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2Klr0pO.

Other financial matters

The board on Monday also approved the 2018-19 insurance package policies for property, general liability, auto, boiler and machinery, workers’ compensation, umbrella, security, error and omissions, in the amount of $277,288. According to finance committee minutes, last year’s cost was $262,293. When Lehighton’s elementary buildings are sold, the cost will again drop to $264,278.

The board also authorized a transfer from the general fund to food service fund in an amount not to exceed $5,339 to close out the 2017-18 school year; approved a student lunch price and adult lunch price increase of $0.10 (elementary $2.40, middle school/high school $2.70, adult $3.70) for the 2018-19 school year.