BLOSSBURG - With a May 9 board meeting coming up fast, the Southern Tioga School District board must find a way to raise the money it needs to close its $2.5 million deficit, or it will have to go through with the cuts that it tabled at an April 11 board meeting.
During a community budget meeting held Wednesday, many community members offered their suggestions to six board members as to how to resolve the budget crisis created by Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed billion dollar school funding cut for next year's budget.
Many asked for more information to be posted on the district's website, such as a detailed budget with line-by-line costs of programs and staff.
One resident practically begged the board to raise taxes by 4 mills, which would nearly pay for the deficit, but add about $400 per year to a property assessed at $100,000.
Borough Councilman Jim Bogaczyk said he gladly would pay more taxes to "save the school system" and suggested many other taxpayers would, too.
But the deadline to put a referendum for such a measure on the ballot in May passed last month, said board member Dan Berguson.
In addition, Berguson said, according to the state school code, school districts are not allowed to raise taxes for strictly fiscal necessity.
One man wanted to know if the coaches could offer their services for free, as was suggested at the April 11 meeting.
That is not possible either, as coaches are included in the Southern Tioga Education Association union and therefore are "part of the collective bargaining agreement with the school district," according to Carol Snyder, treasurer of the STEA.
"They could choose to donate that money back to the school district if they wish," she added.
Blossburg Borough Councilwoman Jill Nickerson, who also works with the North Penn Save our Schools group, said that is just what the community should do.
"Am I going to raise $2.5 million by the end of May? No. Am I going to try? Yeah," she said.
Nickerson said the community could get involved with letter writing to the governor and legislators by visiting the SOS website, at www.blossburg.org/sos, where they will find sample letters and postcards that can be printed and sent, as well as addresses of where to send them.
Nickerson said residents could donate to the Community Foundation for the Twin Tiers to benefit the district, or go online to the SOS website and use PayPal to donate.
She also told the crowd of about 100 people that public meetings to discuss the crisis have been set up in all three communities.
"We have set up public meetings, at 6 p.m. May 3 at the Liberty Borough Hall, May 4 at the Bloss Fire Hall, and May 6 at Mansfield Fire Hall, to work in small groups and come to some consensus on what is important, but people need to come," she said.
Getting rid of unfunded mandates, such as paying thousands per year to educate district students attending cyber charter school, was brought up repeatedly throughout the evening.
Richmond Township resident Sean Bartlett told Superintendent Keith Yarger he and other district superintendents should "get together with all the school districts and tell the state either make the mandates less or the funding greater."
Yarger said the superintendents will discuss doing just that next week.
He said the best thing residents can do is to contact their legislators and the governor with their concerns.