Tax hikes approved for Jersey Shore school district

JERSEY SHORE — Following a vote of 5-3 by the Jersey Shore Area School District board Monday night, homeowners in the district can expect to pay more in property taxes next year.

Voting for the tax increase were Karen Stover, John Pecchia, Mary Thomas, Kelley Wasson and Craig Allen. Voting no were Merrill Sweitzer, Michelle Stemler and Harry Brungard. Christopher Fravel was absent.

By voting to go to 100 percent of the Act 1 index, $49.97 for every $100,000 of a property’s assessed value will be added to tax bills in Clinton County and $54.02 for every $100,000 of a property’s assessed value in Lycoming County.

With the increase, the tax millage for the 2019-20 fiscal year will be 13.4605 in Clinton County and 18.2915 in Lycoming County.

The board discussed at length the need for increasing taxes at this time. Ben Enders, district business manager, told the board that expenditures in wages, benefits and the district’s bill for students attending charter schools were the drivers behind the increase.

Enders noted that salary increases accounted for $550,000, benefits, $300,000 and charter schools around $500,000 in the budget.

In the midst of the discussion about whether or not to increase the tax rate, board members stressed the need to find a permanent solution to the ongoing budget deficits over the past few years.

“We have got to look at something down the road because if we don’t, we’re going to be taxing to the index every year. I can see us filing for an exception to tax above that index,” said Brungard. “We have to do something down the road and I don’t care what we do with this tonight. I can understand going to 100 percent. I hate to see it, but it’s going to create more revenue.”

If the board had not voted for the tax increase, the district would have been forced to use almost $1 million from the fund balance to cover the deficit for the upcoming year.

“I realize we’re going to take a major hit if we decide to take a million dollars from our fund balance, but reciprocating that to those who are relying upon us to make wise decisions, we’re just passing the buck off to the rest of the community that we can’t take a hit, but they should. I’m not okay with that. We’re not being fiscally responsible expecting others to just fund the bills and float everything that we decide to do. I think some of the harder decisions we have not actually made. We need to,” said board member Michelle Stemler.

In other business, the board introduced the district’s comprehensive plan which was formulated after a review of the current plan as required by the state’s department of education every three years. The new plan will be on the district’s website for 28 days until final approval in July.

Under personnel, the board approved:

• Mark Sundberg as head cross country coach at a salary of $4,200; Mindy Gunn and Bob as volunteer coaches for cross country; Matthew Strayer as volunteer coach for varsity baseball and Averie Hess as volunteer coach for girls’ basketball. All positions are for the 2019-20 season.

• Michelle White as a personal care nurse aide at the Middle School at a salary of $20,786.

• Matt Taylor as the head custodian at the High School at a rate of $15.85 per hour.

• Eric PapLaRin and Jason Smith as full-time custodians at a rate of $13.65 and hour.

• Ronald Weldey as a van drive and aide for Susquehanna Transit.

The Act 93 plan which sets administrative salaries for the upcoming year was passed by a 7-1 vote with Brungard casting the only no vote.

In other business approved:

• authorizing the business manager to advertise for bids for the sponsorship of a new scoreboard at the track and soccer complex.

• a contract with Direct Energy to lock in prices for electricity of three years for all five school buildings and the administration building.

• agreements with Infocon to print and mail the real estate tax bills and provide tax processing services for 2019.

• the BLaST IU 17 2019-2020 IDEA pass through funds agreement.

The board also announced at the meeting that there will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. July 10 at the middle school to present optional plans for dealing with the district’s fiscal problems.

The next board meeting will be at 7 p.m. June 24 at the District Center, 175 A & P Drive.

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