EL board promises to cut taxes and positions

BY ROBERT L. BAKER

The Elk Lake School Board passed a preliminary budget Tuesday night, May 22, that promises to bring about both cuts in personel for the 2012-13 school year as well as a cut in property taxes.

Yes, you read that right: property taxes will come down at least for theWyomingCountyside of things.

The $18,216,759 preliminary budget calls forWyomingCountytaxes to decline from 44.2 to 42.4 mills but to increase inSusquehannaCountyfrom 35.8 to 37.48 mills.

The difference appears to be a continuing effort to follow a state equalization index guideline offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

WyomingCountytax assessor Eric Brown said Thursday there was no other way to explain it because there has neither been a significant increase in number of properties assessed inMeshoppenTownshipand Meshoppen Borough or a significant change upward in market values.

Calls to Renee Reynolds of the Pennsylvania State Equalization Board inHarrisburgand toElkLakebusiness manager Kim Hollister regarding the discrepancy have not been returned.

The expenditures were counterbalanced with revenues projected at $17.4 million, leaving the district with a deficit of $792, 840.

Superintendent Bill Bush said the district would be faced with a combination of personnel cuts as well as the possibility of drawing down a fund balance.

The board engaged in a discussion about enrollment and it also was noted that in theElkLakeSchool Districtthe current enrollment stood at 1,242 students, down 23 percent from 2004-5 when the district supported 1,530 students and down 37 percent from a high water mark in 1995-96 when the district supported 1,714 students.

Bush called it “a kind of a perfect storm scenario” with a significant decline in enrollment as well as a reduction in state subsidies.

He noted, “the times we’re in right now are not usual times.”

School board member Arden Tewksbury said the word out ofHarrisburgis “we’re not always getting the straight talk.”

Bush agreed.

But he noted that it was not just the governor.

“The legislature is also in on this,” Bush said, and he pointed to significant raises in responsibilities of school districts to contribute to teacher retiurements.

He said the eight percent responsibility of districts jumps to 12 percent next year and in four or five years moves to 25 percent.

Bush said, “We have always tried  to do it (belt tightening) the painless way through retirements, but this year we will probably have to go beyond that.”

Board presidentChuck Placeasked about how much money would need to be taken out of reserve funds?

Bush said the district wouldn’t know until the time of budget final adoption, probably June 21.

In both theElkLakeand Susquehanna County Career andTechnologyCentermeetings, it was acknowledged that administrator salaries would be frozen at 2011-12 levels.

At the front end of the evening’s meetings,ElkLakeforesnsics director Keith Brosius showed off a table full of trophies which students had acquired during the current school year

He thanked the board for its support and noted that representatives of the school would be copmpeting in national competitions this past weekend inBaltimore,Md., and in June inIndianapolis,Ind.

Alice Carr was voted unanimously as board treasurer for the new budget cycle that begins July 1.

SCCTC director Alice Davis announced that the SCCTC graduation was scheduled for Thursday, June 7 at7 p.m.An awards program which in previous years was held at the time of graduation would be held a week earlier during the school day. She acknowledged that SCCTC students would be receiving the equivalent of $14,000 in awards.

ElkLake’s high school graduation is set for Saturday, June 9.