MONTGOMERY - By closing the Elimsport Elementary School, freezing salaries and accepting retirements, the Montgomery Area School board plans to keep its district property tax increase at the same level announced in January without furloughing any teachers.
That's the expectations reported Tuesday by district Superintendent Daphne Ross and the school board, who continue to prepare the district's 2011-12 budget of around $13.2 million for an anticipated June adoption.
Although they plan to keep the property tax increase at 1 mill, fiscal adjustments were necessary since Gov. Tom Corbett slashed statewide education funding as reported in his March 8 budget address.
Montgomery schools are expecting to receive a state subsidy cut of $723,000, according to district business Manager Steven Rupert.
Ross said the district should be able to absorb nearly one-third of the subsidy reduction by closing Elimsport Elementary at the end of this school year.
Following five years of declining enrollment, it had only been offering classes to students in Kindergarten through second grade since a board decision last June.
The board unanimously agreed in its Tuesday budget proposal to close all classes at the Elimsport School.
Elimsport options were involved in some heated public comments at past meetings, but no visitors spoke on this issue Tuesday.
Some board members said they've resorted to reversing their reluctance from last year, and have decided offering classroom education to all district students at the main Montgomery campus has become necessary.
"I was fully against closing classes a year ago in Elimsport," board member D. Todd Baker said. "To vote against this now would be stubborn and fiscally irresponsible."
Board member Jody Budman, who said she agrees with Baker, said teachers she's talked to understand the severity of the financial situation and want to do what's right for the district.
Budman said she's heard teachers end sentences with "we need to do what's best for the school."
She thanked them for their understanding.
Ross said no teachers are expected to be furloughed because 16 staff members have agreed to accept their retirement benefits, including seven reported Tuesday.
Ross said the district will be forever grateful to teachers retiring at the end of this school year, including Karen Peace-Hetner, Julie Kramm, Becky Newhard, Cathy Kaninberg, Richard Horney, Elizabeth Thompson and Craig Weaver.
Elimsport teachers aren't expected to lose their jobs, as Ross said they're expected to be integrated into the staff at the central Montgomery campus.
Salary freezes are being proposed for administrative and teaching staff, and when Rupert's retirement becomes effective June 30, Ross will be considered the sole administrator.
She said the district should be able to continue providing full-day Kindergarten and maintain acceptable class sizes for students of all ages.