School board weighs tax increase to fight deficit

JERSEY SHORE — In an effort to fight the district’s roughly $2.1 million deficit, the area school board listened to a presentation about the district’s budget and applying for exceptions to raise the real estate Act 1 Index above the district’s 3.3 percent.

A district’s Act 1 Index is the already given amount that a district cannot raise taxes over each year unless a district applies for exceptions.

At the board meeting in January, the district already voted to apply for exceptions that will allow the district to raise taxes above 3.3 percent if they chose to do so when it is time to adopt a budget in June. Reviewing the budget is part of the exception process in order to show a need for exceptions.

Benjamin Enders, business manager, presented the board with a review of what the 2018-19 budget would look like with exceptions.

He said with exceptions, the district’s revenue would be $40.9 million and expenditures would be $43.1 million.

That would leave the district with a $2.1 million deficit.

The 2017-18 budget’s revenue is $41.1 million with $41.7 million expenditures.

With the preliminary 2018-19 budget, the mills for Clinton County would be 13.3666 and the mills for Lycoming County would be 18.3211

The 2017-18 budget’s mills are 12.1009 for Clinton County and 17.3736 for Lycoming County.

That would be a mill increase of 1.2657 for Clinton County and 0.9475 for Lycoming County.

For a home valued at $100,000, that would be $126 tax increase for Clinton County and $94 for Lycoming County.

Applying for the exceptions does not mean the district has to raise taxes higher than 3.3 percent, but the option will be available for the district.

The board also designated that it will have additional meeting dates in order to discuss the public’s concerns regarding the options to fight the deficit. The first additional work session meeting date will be 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the administrative building, 175 A and P Drive.

“What I heard loud and clear was that the public feels … that decisions absolutely have already been made regarding what direction this board is going to go in closure and proceeding through configuration,” said Kelley Wasson, board president. “I wanted to just say that is absolutely not correct.”

She said she felt the public was concerned they were not being heard and their information was not being included in decisions.

“I wanted to make the announcement that after a lot of thinking … we, I believe, need to have some structure in going forward with our deliberation,” she said. “We are going to set dates for work sessions. Those work sessions are going to have specific assigned areas to them so that the administration can come prepared to answer questions we have.”

In other business, a motion was made to limit the feasibility study by Crabtree to the three buildings, parking areas, traffic thruways and athletic facilities that will be designated to accept the students in the proposed reconfiguration but was denied in a 6-3 vote against the motion.

Voting no were members Craig Allen, Harry Brungard, John Pecchia, Karen Stover, Michelle Stemler and Mary Thomas. Voting yes were members Christopher Fravel, Merrill Sweitzer and Wasson.

“I’m very concerned about the limited amount of time we’re going to have with that broad of an amount of information from when it will be presented to when I think we’ll be asked to vote on it,” Fravel said.

Pecchia said he was also concerned about the time frame.

“But I’d rather have all the information in front of me than make a decision based on a smaller amount,” he said.

All members were present at the meeting.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the administrative building.