BR adopts budget with tax cut

BY STACI WILSON

Property owners in the Blue Ridge school district will see a drop in this year’s tax bills.

The district’s final 2011-12 budget of $16,333,906 was approved by the board at the Monday (June 27) meeting.

The tax drop reflects a decrease to 44.89 mills, a one mill reduction from the 2010 rate.

After raising tax rates the highest allowable amount in 2010, the board committed earlier this year to decreasing the property tax burden in the district.

Tax bills will be ordered this week, according to business manager Loren Small.

Property owners should receive the notices by mid-July.

The board also approved changes to benefit classes but President Alan Hall did not expound on the matter saying the employees, including non-instructional staff, had not yet been made aware of the changes yet.

Board member Christina Whitney said only that the move reflected changes made in the recently approved contract.

Board member Laurie Bonner offered the only vote against the benefit class changes.

Hall reported he had spent the day on the phone lobbying representatives in Harrisburg regarding the proposed state budget, school vouchers and Act 1.

He said that if the Act 1 exceptions were eliminated, it would “cripple us.”

The board approved lists of both instructional and non-instructional substitutes for the 2011-12 school year.

Board members also discussed district policies on the agenda for approval.

Bonner questioned the special education policy up for approval.

She said she had concerns about the availability of students’ educational records and information.

Acting special education director Barbara McCain acknowledged the concern and said the department was working to better the procedure for handling the information.

Superintendent Bob McTiernan said a policy was in place – separate from the policy before the board for approval at the meeting – that does dictate the confidentiality of student records.

Bonner also asked about the feasibility of having someone who acted in the capacity of a “parent representative” to attend IEP meetings.

She said the parent rep could help educate parents about the IEP process and how to put together a good IEP for their child.

Hall said he was concerned about the legal ramifications of a district appointee but directed the superintendent to look into the matter.

All board members agreed that improved communication with parents about the process was needed.