JERSEY SHORE — In a reversal from its original draft budget, the Jersey Shore Area School Board has approved a proposed budget with a tax rate that is 25% of the index instead of the voted 50% earlier this month.
This means for residents of the district that their taxes will go up less than expected and, in fact, for property owners who qualify under the Homestead/Farmstead Act, taxes will go down.
Without the Homestead/Farmstead, Clinton County property taxes would increase by $30.98 and Lycoming would increase by $18.50. Properties that qualify for Homestead/Farmstead in Clinton County would have their property taxes reduced by $36.22 and in Lycoming County by $48.78.
These are the district’s preliminary calculations pending any county/state updates, according to district superintendent Dr. Brian Ulmer.
Voting in favor of the proposed budget with the tax rate change: Michael Allen, Kayla Calhoon, Patrice Doebler, Wayne Kinley, Nancy Petrosky, Michelle Stemler and Mary Thomas. Angela Grant and Jessie Edwards voted no.
The vote on lowering the tax rate this week follows comments from board members questioning the fairness of raising taxes on the public while failing to address why spending is rising.
“You can’t continue to burden taxpayers” said board member Wayne Kinley, who pointed out that 70% of the budget came from staff costs.
Kinley questioned the need to hire more teachers with declining enrollment in the district. He cited a class at Salladasburg Elementary School which, as of this time, will have 18 students with two teachers. The average class size allowed in the district is 17 to 25 students.
“Due to three separate elementary schools, the district is unable to maximize the number of students,” Kinley said.
“I think the board should recognize that you are continuing to increase our staff budget, in large part. For 2021-22 we have just added two primary teachers and we are considering three more for 2022-23. We cannot afford to do nothing to reduce personnel costs,” Kinley said.
“We have to find ways to reduce costs. I’m telling you that if we don’t do some sort of consolidation or restructuring, it’s only going to get worse,”” he added.
Board member Michelle Stemler warned that raising taxes to cover expenses is “unsustainable”.
“We don’t have a revenue line that continually comes in to maintain what we actually spend year after year going forward,” Stemler said she agreed with Kinley on the personnel costs.
“In terms of this increase, knowing that we basically have a reserve of $2.8 million that we may eventually have to spend, my thinking on this is simply this. It’s like a savings account that you and I personally own and what we do is we don’t want to spend the money in our savings account so instead of spending it we ask taxpayers to go ahead and fund this bill so we don’t have to spend this money,” said Stemler.
“And that’s just not true, because in the future, if we end up with any surplus, that money will never be returned to them. It’s your money. It’s my money. It’s their money. she added.
She cautioned that by increasing the mileage, it sets a new baseline that could be added each year. With a mileage for Lycoming County at 18.25 and Clinton County at 13.66, Stemler said it’s not that far off 19 mills.
“Our biggest issue here on Jersey Shore is trying to help our tax base. There’s no companies moving here that’s going to help offset that and yet we make those decisions asking for money and yet we’re not fiscally responsible for limiting what it is or what it must spend, she says.
Stemler said that due to rising personnel costs, other programs are suffering because there are no funds to expand them.
“We continue to spend and hire without really looking for the solution to the problem”, she stated.
She asked the board to consider “really difficult but very logical solutions for the future on how we are going to spend our money”.
“It’s not just our money. It’s our community’s money and I think that’s the part we need to make sure we understand who that money belongs to when we’re going to spend it,” she added.
At the end of the discussion, Board Chair Mary Thomas summarized the situation by saying “We are not going to solve this problem tonight.”
“It’s a discussion we need to have. It’s a discussion that needs to happen at the capital projects committee. It’s a discussion that can continue to happen. We’ve had these discussions over the last few years », said Thomas.
During the public comment portion at the end of the meeting, a district resident addressed the issue of keeping a school open with declining enrollment.
“This council really needs to look at how many students are attending our schools and, dollar for dollar, are we getting our best value,” he said.
In other cases:
– The board approved the following appointments for Athletic Department playing staff for the 2021-22 track season: Beth Keller, Terri Cummings, Crock Herman and Collin Glorioso. Reed Mellinger stepped down from the match staff effective June 3. Jon Boob has been approved as a volunteer basketball coach effective May 24.
–The board has accepted a retirement letter from Scott Krupa, head caretaker of Avis Elementary with 47.5 years of service, effective July 6, 2022.
– Two teachers have been appointed as of August 16. They are: Laura Eck, special education at Jersey Shore Area High School, with a salary of $65,214 and Carole Christine Smith, an elementary music teacher in all elementary buildings, with a salary of $53,467 $.
Under miscellaneous business, the Board approved:
— The appointment of Nancy Petrosky and Patrice Doebler as voting delegates and participants in the 2022 PSBA Delegate Assembly.
— A contract renewal between the district and BLaST IU 17 for the DaRTS software.
— A contract between the district and UPMC Williamsport d/b/a UPMC Pediatric Rehabilitation for physiotherapy services from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.
— The administration put several computer screens up for sale on Municibid.com. If no offers are received, the items will be discarded.
– The donation of a tree from the Jersey Shore Area Elementary BARK program, for the Butterfly Garden, in memory of the grandson of a Jersey Shore Area Elementary employee.
– The renewal of the All Access package with PSBA for standard membership, policy maintenance and training, for 2022-2023.
— The sale of the following items, via the Municibid online auction, for the amount indicated and to whom the bid is awarded: A pallet of 30 desktop computers – $30.00 to Kehinde Akintoye; a pallet of 30 desktop computers — $63.00 to Muhammad Chaudhry.
The next board meeting will be at 7 p.m., June 13, in the District Council Chambers, 175 A&P Drive.