Elk Lake School Board Passes Preliminary Budget for 2011-2012; No Tax Increase
Elk Lake School taxpayers should be relieved that their taxes for the coming school year will not go up. The board passed a preliminary budget at the last meeting, amounting to $17,442,613. The difference between that and the current year’s budget is a minus $631,435 and that, along with about $300,000 from gas money and a few other things, will close the gap created by the lower state subsidy of $1,006,000. Last month it was reported that the subsidy was reduced by $1,600,000 which was incorrect. That figure, “one million, six” was interpreted to mean $1,600,000, rather than the correct $1,006,000.
Millage as calculated for the 2011-2012 year is expected to be 35.830 for Susquehanna County, which is the same as the current year. Those in part of Wyoming County, which is served by the Elk Lake School District, will see a decrease in their millage, from 46.800 this year to 44.250 for 2011-2012. The difference in millage is calculated by state figures to equalize the differences in property appraisals. Besides the millage amounts, taxpayers who have previously applied and been approved for Homestead status will receive a similar reduction in taxes, about $189.
To help the district come up with a lower budget, the district will likely not replace nine jobs where people are retiring. This is expected to be six professional staff and three support personnel. According to Superintendent William Bush, the district can still meet all the obligations for its 1,349 students, which is a little lower than former years. Class sizes will not be appreciably different. Benefits alone for less employees will save the district about $102,000.
Maintenance will be cut by $245,000, and transportation will be cut by about $166,000 and will include reducing one contractor’s run as well as curtailing some of the athletic contests. Bush said that they tried not to eliminate programs, but they will curtail some contests and transportation. A small amount of the difference will be made up from medical/dental funds.
According to Board President Chuck Place, “We’ve been fortunate with the energy programs.” He was referring to the hiring a few years ago of an energy person to come up with ways to drastically cut the energy costs within the school, including lighting, timers for equipment and heat, etc.
A visitor asked whether administration personnel had been looked into as a way to cut the budget. The answer was yes, but no changes will be made. It was noted that there are also three guidance counselors. One item cut out of the state budget will affect some students.
The dual enrollment programs, which have been state funded for the past six years, will continue to be offered next year, but without state funds. Students who want to take the dual enrollment courses will need to pay the tuition themselves. Still, many of the courses, for instance those through Keystone, are being offered at a reduced fee of $75 per credit plus a one-time fee of $125. Previously when they were offered, Keystone would charge $600 for a four-credit course (or $150 per credit), or twice the amount. For the current school year, 112 students have taken dual enrollment courses amounting to $360,000 in tuition, paid by the state funds. Some students have received over 50 credits, which is almost equivalent to two years worth of college credits, a great savings to them and their families. There are currently no indications of other grants to cover next school year’s college/dual enrollment tuition.
Another question from the audience asked about a “drug-free campus” and “how come we don’t enforce it?” He was referring to cigarettes being smoked outside the gymnasium at games. Administration will look into it, but can’t be everywhere.
School graduation will be on June 11, with baccalaureate services on June 5. Other than seniors, the last school days will be on June 13 and 14. One hundred and sixteen seniors are on the potential graduation list, pending meeting all of the requirements.
A payment approved by the Elk Lake Board for the Career & Technology Center’s expansion was questioned by a visitor. Although the center will be self-funded through tuition, the funding has been secured through the Elk Lake Board, since they are the unit which is tax based. The center will repay the payments to Elk Lake.