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JTSD admin building up for sale

The Jim Thorpe school board will not raise taxes in 2021-22. But members are interested in selling the district’s administration building to help its budget in years to come.

The board voted 6-2 Wednesday night to place the building up for sale, and said Carbon County Commissioners could be a potential buyer.

“While our budget has no tax increase, it’s $50 (million) which exceeds our expected revenue by several million,” said Scott Pompa, board president. “School boards can search for ways to supplement their revenue to address these potential budget issues.”

As of June 30, 410 Center Ave. will be the district administration building in name only. All administrative staff have relocated to a wing of the Jim Thorpe Area High School formerly occupied by Lehigh Carbon Community College. The district had the building appraised last year.

Pompa said that selling the building could be a way to help the district’s finances, and that Carbon County would be interested in buying it. The county has been looking to expand its offices for several years. They recently got their own appraisal on 410 Center Ave., though they also appraised another building in Lehighton.

The county has been leasing space inside 410 Center Ave. since last fall, as it renovates its offices at 76 Susquehanna St. in Jim Thorpe. The elections office, sheriff’s office, and planning and development office have all used space inside the building. The Court of Common Pleas also moved some trials to the building’s gymnasium because the courthouse couldn’t meet COVID-19 restrictions.

Board member Jerry Strubinger said the district should sell the building because it is not in use and it could cost them money to maintain in the future.

“We’re not using it. We don’t have the need to use it,” Strubinger said.

Glenn Confer and Dennis McGinley said they disagree with the decision to put the building up for sale.

Pompa also recommended that the board put a 133-acre parcel it owns in Penn Forest Township up for sale. But that idea failed to get the required five votes.

Confer said that there are other ways for the district to raise revenue. He said he didn’t want to discuss them during the board meeting.

The board passed its final 2021-22 budget Wednesday night, after voting in May to advertise it for adoption. The budget uses about $2.4 million in reserve funds to keep the tax rate at their current levels, 45.52 mills.

The board hasn’t raised property taxes in over a decade, but in recent years they have had to use reserve funds to overcome budget deficits due to rising expenses.

The past two years, the district spent less than it had budgeted for. The 20-21 budget had a projected deficit $4.9 million, but the district business office now projects the actual shortfall will be closer to $3 million. Board member TJ Garritano said that the board also plans to limit spending as much as possible in 2021-22.

“Just because the budget is set at $50 million, I know we will wholeheartedly try to maintain spending at the current levels,” Garritano said.