Previously facing a $5.4 million deficit, Williamsport Area School District presented - through staff cuts and a tax increase - a balanced budget at Tuesday's school board meeting.
The board voted 8-1 to approve the budget, which included a .339 mill increase on property taxes. Business Manager Jeffrey Richards said the increase equates to an additional $32.59 for the owner of a property valued at $96,126 - the average property value for district boundaries.
Richards said not raising taxes to the Act 1 Index would put the district in a "bind" as retirement increases are too much to handle. Retirement will cost the district an additional $506,000 in 2012-13.
The district was able to bring the budget within about $300,000 prior to the tax hike with staff cuts - 36 professional, 33 support and four administrative.
The district also saved some money by cutting athletics $100,000 and eliminating a bus run for a savings of $61,000, according to Richards.
Richards showed that the district will see a revenue increase of about $1.88 million. Half of the district's revenue comes from the state, with 40 percent coming locally. Expenditures rose less than 1 percent from the current budget for about a $500,000 increase. Instruction is the main expense as it accounts for 57.5 percent.
Along with retirement, the district will see a 20-percent increase in health care, Richards said.
"We've been working hard the entire year on the budget," said Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Kelley.
Kelley added that the district had input from all levels of staff in order to create a "responsible budget in a hard economic time."
Board member Jay Shultz commended district administration for the work it has done. He said while any tax hike isn't the best situation, to have taxes increase to less than a half a mill is remarkable since the district faced such a large deficit early in the process.
In other matters, after voting twice to hold high school graduation in the auditorium, the board reversed its ruling with an 8-1 vote to hold it in the stadium. If bad weather is experienced the day of graduation, it will be held in the auditorium.
The topic again was brought up for discussion after Michael Reed, a high school principal, approached asking the board to reconsider. Reed explained that after news broke that the board voted to keep graduation inside at its May 1 meeting, the school received many calls with concerns from students and community members.
After allowing a student vote, Reed reported that 95 percent of graduating seniors wanted the ceremony to be held in the stadium.
"Our students have spoken, our community has spoken," Reed said.
He added that students understood the ceremony would be better inside but wanted all family members to be apart of it - if inside students would be given four tickets to the actual ceremony.
Board President Lori Baer said her deciding factor to vote for an inside graduation at the last meeting was the behavior of both students and audience members.
She wants Reed to make it clear that beach balls and loud discussions during speakers shouldn't occur from either party.
Board member Karen Harris - the lone vote against the outside venue - agreed saying outside graduations are a "free for all. There's not as much respect for the speakers or students when graduation's on the football field."
Some board members said if the students care this much about the venue, they should consider the request.
"This is a big deal to them and I think we should honor their request," said Jerene Milliken, board member.
"I would defer to what (the students) overwhelmingly decided," said David Stone Jr., board member.
Kelley added that students need to talk with family as the behavior displayed at this year's ceremony could affect whether or not next year's graduation is held outside.