ALLENTOWN, Pa. - It's decision day in the Allentown School District.
The school board is expected to vote Thursday night on a final budget for the 2014-2015 school year and dozens of jobs are on the chopping block.
The proposed budget would eliminate about 100 positions and includes a 5.8 percent tax increase.
"This is the most difficult meeting of the year," said Superintendent Russ Mayo.
The board must vote on the district's budget despite uncertainty over state funding.
"We're going to be optimistic in our budget that at least the amount in the Ready to Learn grant that the governor proposed, which for us was $5.2 million, will be there in one way, shape or form," Mayo told 69 News.
Mayo said the proposed budget would eliminate about 100 positions: more than 70 teacher and four administrator positions, along with support staff spots. He said more than a dozen teachers are retiring.
"Out of the 73 we sent out about 59 or 60 furlough letters," he said.
As the district tries to balance its budget, Mayo said reducing staff takes a toll on everyone.
"We have to stay solvent and the best way we can do that is to cut our expenses and the primary cost in public education is people, the salaries," he explained.
"I think the emotional aspect is the most difficult of all of this. I think probably staff feels that the board and superintendent sat up here in meetings and they just have ice water running through their veins but I can tell you there's not any ice water in these veins. It's all warm, human blood just like it is in the those who are being reduced and my heart goes out to those folks," Mayo said.
As for the proposed tax increase, the superintendent said, "Certainly that's an unpleasant experience for our board but, again, we're in a situation where we don't have any choices."
69 News reached out to the Allentown Education Association for comment Thursday and did not hear back.
School board members could propose budget amendments at the meeting Thursday that starts at 7:30 p.m. at the administration building at 31 South Penn Street in Allentown.
Allentown, PA 18102