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PENNS MANOR: Board OKs tax increase

by on June 13, 2014 10:55 AM

KENWOOD — The Penns Manor Area school board approved the 2014-15 budget, including a 12.66 mill tax increase, during a regular meeting Thursday at the high school.

The budget includes revenues of $15,755,246 and expenses of $15,986,662 with $231,416 taken from the fund balance. This brings the current millage rate in the district to 120.22, with an increase of $122.93 to the average taxpayer.

One mill generates approximately $26,580 for the district.

The budget was approved with a 5-2 vote, with votes against by board members Jill Eckenrode and Richard Polenik. Board members Joette Dudeck and Susan Wheatley were not present.

The board also approved in a 5-2 vote to levy and assess the new tax rate on all properties in the district This equates to $12.02 per every $100 of assessed taxable property. Votes against this motion were also made by Eckenrode and Polenik.

The board will also assess and re-enact two $5 per capita taxes on each resident of the district age 18 or older.

These taxes are pursuant to Section 679 of the Public School Code and Section 511 of the Local Tax Enabling Act.

In other business, the board approved a reconfiguration of the elementary building beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The elementary building will house grades pre-K through fifth, with sixth grade moving to the high school.

Acting Superintendent Daren Johnston explained that the move is necessary as the first step in creating “a middle school concept.”

“You’ll hear some school that will say elementary school, middle school, high school,” he said. “We’re wanting to create that middle range. You certainly have different nurturing and discipline for kids in elementary school, slightly a little bit more strict for middle school. We’re trying to create that environment.”

Sixth-grade students will follow their own schedule separate from the high school students, with classes contained to one area of the high school to avoid disruption.

The board agreed to grant permission to the administration to establish a cyber academy for kindergarten through grade 12 beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The academy is to be named Penns Manor Area Cyber Academy.

Johnston explained that cyber academy students in the district can often cost the district between $10,500 and $22,000 in state funding. By establishing a district cyber academy, that state funding will stay within the district. If as few as five students are brought into the district’s academy, the program will pay for itself.

In conjunction with the approval of the cyber academy, the board approved posting for a teaching position with multiple certifications to include librarian, elementary, special education and at least two academic subject areas of middle-level certification. This individual would simultaneously run the Penns Manor library and be responsible for the cyber academy students. A salary for this position has not yet been determined.

“Most cyber academies don’t have a library that you can go to,” Johnston said. “By having a teacher who also runs the library, we will be able to offer use of our library to our cyber academy students.”

Penns Manor resident Judy Tomayko spoke during public comment regarding the Penns Manor baseball and softball booster association. Tomayko expressed her discomfort with the proposed junior high track program. While not opposed to the program itself, she questioned how the board may vote to fund a new sports program while the baseball and softball teams have been supporting themselves since 2006.

“We have played our part,” she said. “We have worked diligently to sustain this program, and have done so with not only the funding but also the number of athletes coming out every year for it.

“With that said, I kind of felt kicked in the gut when I realized the school, after years of promising that when funding is available, we would get the money allocated to that program, that that was not the case.”

The board had agreed to table the motion to approve the track program at the beginning of the meeting. Board President Robert Packer explained that it’s difficult to approve any new programs right now, especially with a 12.66 mill tax increase.

“There’s a perception that people say, ‘They have this at another school, we should have it,’ and I agree,” he said. “The last thing we want to do to people who support sports is to pit one against the other.”

In other business, the board voted to:

• Give permission, as Indiana County Technology Center participants, for the Purchase Line School District to become a member of the ICTC.

• Appoint Michelle Dolges as substitute high school principal effective July 1 at an annual salary of $77,891 prorated for the number of months worked.

• Name Mary Niezelski as the high school vocational department head commencing Aug. 27 at a salary of $1,312.74.

• Name David Fulton as the high school social studies department head commencing Aug. 27 at a salary of $1,312.74.

• Retain Michael Reilly as the district’s athletics director from July 1 through June 30, 2016, contingent on the completion of a contract between the board and Reilly.

• Accept the resignation of David Cowles as the elementary math curriculum leader.

• Accept the resignation of Mary Beth Palilla as the elementary language arts curriculum leader.

• Appoint Ronald Saffron as the district’s solicitor for a one-year term at a contracted rate of $3,500 and an hourly rate at $75 per hour.

• Renew the agreement with The Learning Lamp for the 2014-15 school year to provide a classroom at the Penns Manor Area Junior/Senior High School for alternative education support.

• Approve an agreement of services for an alternative education program with Adelphoi.

• Purchase approved French textbooks, high school language arts textbooks, Spanish textbooks and elementary math textbooks at a cost of $95,080.73.

Jeremy Hartley is a staff writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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