Elk Lake approves $18.5M preliminary budget

BY PAT FARNELLI

The Elk Lake school board discussed a preliminary budget of $18,547,149.82, which represents an increase of about $516,000 or 1.7 percent.

Taxes were set at 39.29 mills for Susquehanna County, increased from last year’s 38.31mills. For Wyoming County, taxes were set at 44.41, an increase of .7 mill from last year’s 43.71.

Superintendent William Bush said that the increases were mainly the result of increases in medical and retirement expenses. The budget included $26,408 in savings by replacing retiring employees with lower salaried hires, he said.

Bush said that he expects more definite figures from the state within the next 30 days. “Although anticipated state revenues have not come in, Corbett has pledged that they will come in as promised,” Bush said.

The superintendent noted the number of people living below the poverty level has dropped from 20 percent to 16 percent of the population, “so certainly gas has had a positive impact” on those living within the Elk Lake School District. “As the poverty level goes down, funding goes down,” he said.

John Warnero was named as Dean of Students for the high school. A professional services agreement was approved for occupational therapist Donna Drake at $75 per hour. Another professional services agreement was approved for Connections Learning, formerly known as Advanced Academics, at $185.

Leslie Foster, James Booth, and Cambria Ely were hired for Title One summer positions.

Patsy Gesford was hired as bus/radio/phone monitor at $2,800.

Aaron Roman and Casey Courter were hired for third shift maintenance positions. Three adults were hired for summer maintenance positions: Deb Cummings, Erika Shuren, and Patty Ketchum. Several sports positions were also filled.

Special Education director Pamela Staats noted that regulations have changed and new regulations are now being made for special education programs.

Brian Mallery reported that Paige Parkhurst was named Scholar of the Year and invited to the dinner for area scholars at Mid Valley High School. He noted that over $100,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to Elk Lake seniors this year.

A resolution was passed naming Berkheimer Associates as collector for the earned income tax.

A group of visitors attended the meeting to voice concerns over the proposed conversion of the high school gymnasium stage to a weight/fitness room. Special Education secretary Janet Lunger said that she had sent an email to board members and administrators relating her objections to the project, and read her statement during the visitor comment time on the agenda.

“We’ve been hearing talk in the community about removing the stage in the gym for a weight room,” Lunger said. “That stage is very important to our school. It is used for graduation ceremonies, it is used for Prom Court, and for Dairy Days. Students are quite upset.”

“My thing with graduation is the student, the student I call the invisible student, who isn’t regularly recognized, who makes it to graduation,” she continued. “That walk across that stage might be that student’s only recognition. Carefully consider before you make an alteration.”

She said she was not opposed to a weight room, but to its proposed location.

Bush said that alternative locations being considered include the pool deck and (retiring) Mr. Faillace’s classroom.

The last day of school for Elk Lake has been set for June 12, and for the SCCTC on June 16.

An unusual number of resignations for the purpose of retirement were announced at the meeting. Mike Faillace, Dave Cooper, Ginger Shadduck, Laurie Ehrie, Alan Oakley, were among faculty submitting retirement requests.

Support staff retirements included Diana Stone, Cathy White, and Karen Russell.

When asked if the teachers/staff members will be replaced, Bush said, “They will be replaced, whether by new hires or existing staff.”

Bush said that five Title 1 positions were reduced to three, moving one of these to kindergarten and another to sixth grade.

An SCCTC board meeting followed the Elk Lake meeting. The Protective Services instructor position was filled with the hiring of James Baker, at $50,000.

The board also approved hiring Steve Green as financial aid/medical program/data consultant for 1700 hours at $25 per hour. A board treasurer was assigned for the SCCTC board of directors: Harold Bender, who was re-appointed as SCCTC board treasurer.