Blue Ridge budget approved with one mill increase

BY STACI WILSON

The Blue Ridge School Board adopted a $16,710,015 budget for the 2012-13 school term in a 6-1 vote at the Monday, June 25 meeting. The budget includes a one mill tax increase, upping the millage to 45.89.

Board president Laurie Bonner cast the only dissenting vote. Board members Shane Rumage and Christina Whitney were not present.

Bonner said she was not comfortable with the tax increase.

Board member Harold Empett asked, “Where are we going to go in the next three to five years if (taxes are not raised) in small increments?”

Superintendent Robert McTiernan noted that no changes had been made from the district’s preliminary budget.

The board did move to eliminate “Exhibit B” department head positions from the elementary and high school.

A listing of “Exhinit B” positions for the upcoming year, along with co-curricular and coaching positions were approved by the board.

Tax collectors in the district were also called on by the Board to return the laptops provided by the district by July 15 which would be replaced by desktop computers.

The motion, made by Christina Cosmello and seconded by John Ketchur, did not appear on the meeting agenda.

Several of the tax collectors in the district were present at the meeting. Bonner and Board member Priscinda Gaughan voted against the motion, which passed, 5-2.

Gaughan asked the collectors if there was an advantage to having the laptop over a desktop computer.

New Milford Tax Collector Vicki Drake said the collectors are able to take the laptops to where they collect taxes.

When a laptop needs to be fixed, the collector can bring the unit to the school, as opposed to requiring school personnel to come to the collector’s home to fix it, Drake said.

She also said the tax collectors did not ask for the laptops but they were offered as a part of a settlement agreement stemming from a previous lawsuit between the district and the tax collectors.

The tax collectors, elected every four years in a municipal election, are now in the middle of terms which began in 2009.

Drake said the local elected officials ran for office and went into the current term with the district agreement that they would have the laptop computers to use. “It is set for this term by precedent,” Drake said. “You cannot change the agreement in the middle of a term.”

Drake said the tax collectors had been in contact with their attorney about the district’s plans.

Bonner said, “I don’t want to get in a discussion. We have discussed it at length.”

The board president said that because Drake mentioned consulting an attorney, it was now a legal issue and thought the board should not comment further on the matter.

Drake was assured by Bonner the tax collectors would be provided with a signed copy of the school board’s offer on official letterhead.

The board also approved paying all bills applicable to the current school year and authorized necessary budget transfers on June 30 or for the auditors to make any budget transfers they feel are necessary.

An agreement with PA Treatment and Healing was approved for the 2012-13 school year.

Patricia Cramer, Linda Gunn and Rebecca Upright were approved as personal care assistants for individual students on the days the students attend school in the upcoming year.

Jill Hoffman was approved to serve as the athletic director at a salary of $7,000.

The board also approved the several teaching and paraeducator positions for the extended school year classes which run July 2 – Aug. 15.

Retirement requests from two district teachers and one support staffer were accepted by the board with regret.

Technology teacher Marvin VanCott plans to retire, effective Sept. 20; elementary teacher Bernadette Suchy will retire effective Jan. 12; and custodian William Dunn will retire effective July 11.

The board also approved a response submitted by the superintendent to the finding of 2005-06 Auditor General’s Performance Audit given to the district in a letter dated April 6, 2011.

The audit report said that Lynn Parker held noPennsylvaniacertificate to act as the Dean of Students.

As a corrective measure, Parker’s title was charged to that of Attendance Officer and Student Safety Coordinator.

The next meeting of the school board will be held July 16, at7:30 p.m., in the school cafeteria.