Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nazareth Area School Board introduces budget with 2 percent hike

victor leskyView full sizeExpress-Times File PhotoVictor Lesky

Layoffs or program cuts will be considered if Nazareth Area School District teachers don't agree to give back some of their raises next school year, according to the district superintendent.

Superintendent Victor Lesky and the Nazareth Area School Board last week unveiled a proposed 2012-13 budget calling for a 2 percent property tax increase. The proposed tax increase is necessary regardless of whether teachers agree to cut their raises, Lesky said.

The teachers union rejected a wage freeze in the 2011-12 budget while support staffers and administrators agreed to give back a portion of their annual raises. The result was the elimination of several teaching positions, a custodian and the district's driver education program.

He said the district faces a $571,452 deficit next year. Administrators are hopeful negotiations with teachers will bridge that gap.

School board member Jerry Treon has suggested administrators meet with the teachers union. 

Teachers union president Aris Asdourian said he can't comment until he receives a proposal from administrators.

"It's premature to talk about salaries because we have other salary issues that have not been resolved since the beginning of this year," he said. "I haven't seen any offers. If there was an offer, we would consider it."

The proposed 2 percent tax hike means the owner of a property assessed at the district average of $67,400 would pay $74 more annually in taxes next year, Lesky said. Next year's proposed $69 million budget is 3.4 percent larger than this year's $68.8 million budget.

“This budget proposes a tax rate of 47.69 mills or a 0.95 mill increase. This tax rate keeps Nazareth’s tax rate 5th of the 8 school districts in Northampton County and below the average Northampton County rate of 48.61 mills,” Lesky said.

The proposed budget does not include any new district employees and all positions would be reviewed for possible cuts, Lesky said. Layoffs also could depend upon the projected student population and the number of staff members who plan on retiring at the end of the current school year, he said, noting that information will be known in the spring.

The teachers' contract calls for the average teacher to get a 3.75 percent raise next year. The district will contribute $1.1 million more next year over this year to a state teachers' pension fund.

Those increases are offset by budget cuts to all district departments. Special education is the only department that faces no cuts. That department faces a rise in the autistic population in the district. Nazareth Area High School reduced expenses by 20 percent largely due to the elimination of the driver education program, Lesky said.

He said the proposed 2012-13 budget is based on a "no increase" scenario in state funding and could change depending on the basic education funding proposal in Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget. The governor’s budget is slated to be released in February. In addition, the district could gain aid in district real estate tax revenue, which will be determined on April 1.

The preliminary budget is scheduled to be adopted on Jan. 23, with final adoption scheduled for May.

Will take a closer look at this later, but most important thing to keep in mind is that giving some pay back now only compounds the problem in the future when the employees get back on their "schedule". This is not a solution it is a band-aid. If positions can be cut, cut them.

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

No comments: