Elk Lake believes it can weather storm

BY PAT FARNELLI

Although proposed state budget cuts to public education loom, at least one Northeast Pennsylvania school district is not pushing the panic button.

At its Thursday meeting, the Elk Lake school board  noted that the district’s longtime tradition of being very conservative has shored up something of a financial reserve, and there is no need to lay off personnel, or to drop down to half-day kindergarten.

Gas well royalty payments averaging $50,000 a month are another potential source of district income.

The proposed loss in state funding for Elk Lake if Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal goes through is $872,181. It reflects a total loss in basic education funding, accountability block grants, charter school reimbursement and educational assistance programs.

Superintendent William Bush said that to see the state funding at a corresponding level, you would have to go back to 2006.

Bush said that he was recommending to the board that rather than cutting positions, they consider not replacing resignations or retirements, hire necessary replacements at lower salaries, and look into using the district’s reserves.

“I think we can weather the storm,” board president Chuck Place said. “We are in a very solid condition here at Elk Lake, and have been so for years and years. We have been very conservative. I think we can weather the storm for years to come.”

“We certainly do not have plans to lay off employees,” said board member Arden Tewksbury.

Bush added, “We are not considering half day kindergarten. Our kindergarten will remain full day. We hope to come back to the board for the April meeting, and have a budget plan.”

Resident Jeannie Jayne asked what was the board’s back up plan, in case state cuts continue.

Place explained, “Elk Lake is a publicly funded school; the Career and Technology Center is a totally different animal.”

He said that the state education cuts were to specific programs, none of which were aimed at the SCCTC.

“The governor, in addressing this budget, said that he has made it one of his priorities to see career centers continue to grow,” Place said.

“Well, don’t double whammy me in a couple years, and the taxpayers,” Jayne said.

Resident Craig Sprout had brought a copy of the Susquehanna Independent with him, and read from an article quoting Blue Ridge superintendent Robert McTiernan.

“He sounds like he’s not definitely sending his students to SCCTC. He sounds like he is pursuing other options,” Sprout said.

Jayne asked if the other districts send a letter of intent or other notice informing the career center that their students will be attending the next year.

She said there are rumors that some school districts might not be sending their students to the SCCTC, located on the Elk Lake school campus.

Place said that participating districts cannot deny their students the opportunity to attend SCCTC, or send them to other career and technology centers.

In other business, the board voted to adopt a resolution against Senate Bill 1, which would make vouchers available for private school tuition.

During the SCCTC portion of the meeting, board member Anne Teel said that the Harford Fair is scheduled later in August than usual, and the first day of school will be Aug. 25.

“Can it be later?” she asked.

Teel said that many Elk Lake and SCCTC students participate in the Harford Fair, and even more attend.

Bush said that the administration would take this into consideration. “Keep in mind, the important thing is the number of school days before PSSA tests,” he said. It was important to allow enough snow days as well, which is why an earlier date was chosen.

On Oct. 26, the Elk Lake School District will be hosting the District Cross Country event, so there will be no school for the SCCTC that day as well.

The board approved submitting “Plan Con H,” an application for state financing for a portion of the SCCTC’s expansion project.

“The state will review the document, and upon approval they will give us figures,” Bush said.

SCCTC renewed its contract for auditor services with Murphy & Dougherty. The current contract is for $13,900, and the new is for $14,250. “It is a slight increase because Murphy & Dougherty are aware of the state budget situation, said Bush. The board approved the new contract.

The board accepted the resignations of Mrs. Josie Coddington and Virginia Hollister Lewis with regret.

The board also approved the district’s share of the NEIU #19 operating budget, special education contract, and fuel oil bid. Elk Lake’s contribution will remain the same as last year’s budget.