East Lycoming looks over preliminary budget

HUGHESVILLE — The East Lycoming Area School Board’s preliminary 2017-18 budget proposes utilizing a “substantial portion” of its committed fund balance for the Public School Employees’ Retirement System over the next six budget years, as costs continue to rise.

The fund originally was established to minimize current and future real estate tax increases, business manager David Maciejewski said.

“Planning for the future of the school district, the board, the taxpayers and the students has always been a priority,” he said.

Maciejewski pointed out the district’s 2016-17 real estate tax rate of 13.06 mills was the lowest rate in Lycoming County. He added that there were questions about the district applying for exceptions for the current budget period, which could have allowed it to raise taxes above the Act 1 index maximum.

“Asking for exceptions doesn’t mean we actually used those exceptions to increase taxes,” Maciejewski said.

In another matter, the board addressed the Future Business Leaders of America students who qualified to compete at the State Leadership Conference in Hershey in April.

With more than 40 students qualifying, the district is looking at a cost of about $21,000 to pay the conference fees as well as bus the students there, stay in a hotel for two nights with meals included, and bus the students back, Superintendent Michael Pawlik said.

The costs have been funded in previous years, however the price keeps rising due to more students qualifying each year.

During the discussion, board member Amy Rogers brought up the students’ alleged belief that, if the fees were for a sporting event, the district would pay without question.

Board member Donna Gavitt said the district should pay, but the students need to help.

Each year, the students fundraise up to $3,500 to help offset the costs. She and other board members agreed that it might be a good idea for them to also “take ownership” and pay a certain amount personally.

“The experience you get from (going to the conference) is not something you get from school,” Gavitt said.

However, it was brought up that this may be unfair to students who do not have access to the funds —  the conference is team-based, with each team being comprised of two to three people, so students not attending due to a lack of money would have a domino affect, Pawlik said.

In the end, the board agreed to continue doing what it’s done in the past: pay for the students to stay in Hershey while also asking the students to subsidize costs with fundraising.

In other business, the board:

• Approved Jennifer Maris as a security worker at a rate of $9.50 per hour with no benefits.

• Approved Jeremy Eck as an athletic volunteer for the 2016-17 baseball season.