The Williamsport Area School Board put aside discussions of construction projects and school closures to pass its final budget Tuesday, which included a tax hike and the elimination of 35 positions.
The budget was approved in a 5-2 vote, and the furloughs passed by a 6-1 vote.
Cuts - which are effective July 1 - included 15 teachers and 20 support staff positions losing their jobs. Although most were traditional eliminations, eight of the people furloughed volunteered to do so.
"Everyone is not happy ... for the number that we furloughed, but it could have been worse," said Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Kelley.
The 15 professional positions eliminated included three health and physical education teachers, one music, one art and three elementary teachers. Kelley said the furloughs were determined by seniority and certifications. She added that the district worked closely with the teachers union when informing the individuals of the district's intentions.
The support staff eliminations, four of which were part-time employees, were determined by seniority and classification.
Although the board approved the furloughs, Kelley expects the number of actual eliminations to decrease as the summer goes on.
"It's already changed," Kelley said. "Letters (informing individuals of being furloughed) will go out, but things are changing daily."
Kelley explained that some current staff will accept other positions outside of the district, go back to school or will move, which will open spots for those who were furloughed.
In the case of a position opening, those furloughed with the most seniority and certification will be brought back.
Board President Lori Baer took time to put to rest a rumor saying the furloughs were to help pay for the construction projects at the former Roosevelt Middle School building and high school, saying they were two separate situations.
"I just want to make sure it is clear that is not the case," she said.
Board member Dale Vollman was the lone vote against the furloughs.
The board also approved a balanced budget of $75,496,409. The budget includes a real estate tax increase of .339 mills - the Act 1 index maximum.
Business Manager Jeffrey Richards told the board that the average home value in the district is $96,126 and the increase would raise taxes $32.59 for those homeowners.
Board members were thankful to the district for being able to balance the budget in "tough" times.
"Budget season is always difficult," said board member David Stone. "I think (the district is) to be commended for coming in with a balanced budget."
Although board member Thomas Zimmerman wasn't present at the meeting, Richards read a statement from him saying the budget was "responsible and appropriate."
Kelley also thanked everyone involved in the process, saying that it started early last fall.
"It was not a very easy task for any of us," she said.
Kelley announced the next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 17 in the multipurpose room at Cochran Elementary School.