With costs expected to rise in the coming years, Loyalsock Township School District projected a 0.25-mill increase to real estate taxes each of the next four years.
Gerald McLaughlin, business manager, said the board would have to approve such increases each year but the tax hike was included in the first reading of the budget at Wednesday's school board meeting. The tax increase would equate to an additional $25 for the owner of a property valued at $100,000.
The district is facing a deficit of $272,000. Superintendent Robert Grantier said the budget isn't finalized and the board still has work to do.
"This is our tentative budget. It's still a work in progress," he said.
"This is our starting point," McLaughlin said. "We have a lot of decisions to make in the next 60 days."
A point of contention for some members of the public during the budget presentation were cuts to eight paraprofessionals from full-time to part-time employees.
"You will drastically reduce the support," said Robin Boone, president of the Loyalsock Township Education Support Professionals.
Although students who need learning support won't lose the service of an aide, the person fulfilling that role could.
"Special education students thrive on continuity," Boone said.
Pam Temons, mother of a Loyalsock Township High School junior who has an aide, agreed, saying the change is like giving him a new mother.
"You're going to hurt the most vulnerable population with this decision," she said.
Along with the cuts to paraprofessionals, the district is proposing to cut a physical education teacher and family consumer science teacher. Cuts to athletics and technology also were in the presentation.
About 70 percent of the district's revenue is funded locally, McLaughlin said in the budget presentation.
The majority of the district's expenditures is salaries and benefits, accounting for about 68 percent. Grantier added that the district pays about $200,000 a year for students who choose to leave the district and enroll in charter and cyber schools.
Grantier called paying for the cyber and charter schools "frustrating," as the district offers a similar online option.
He also mentioned there are two things that are "haunting" education - health care and retirement increases.
The budget shows a 20-percent increase to health care - $311,000 - and an increase from 8.65 percent to 12.34 percent in retirement - $330,000.
"By 2016-17 for every dollar we pay someone, we put 26 cents into retirement," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said the district will continue to work on balancing the budget before the final approval.
He said it will explore discontinuing athletic insurance and a participation fee for extracurricular activities. The district also will keep an eye out for what other districts are doing in the area.
"I know we don't have to do what other school districts are doing but it's always nice to know what they're doing," McLaughlin said.
The board can make any changes to the budget it would like until voted upon for final approval.
"We certainly know we're in trying times," McLaughlin said. "We're in this together. No one likes what we're going through right now."
The board voted 6-3 to approve the tentative budget. Voting against the document were board members Christina Kiessling, Stephen Dewar and Maureen Carey.