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Lehigh Valley

Easton School District Board members face budget reality

EASTON, Pa - Easton Area School District Board Members Tuesday night viewed a slideshow presentation entitled "First Look." The First Look slide show outlined the preliminary 2014-2015 budget. The budget, which includes a $5 million deficit, calls for further possible district staff, programs, and offerings cutbacks in addition to a school tax hike as high as 2.7% for Easton residents.

School Board Finance Committee Director Michael Simonetta explained he did not specify an exact dollar figure translation regarding the 2.7% increase for individual taxpayers because the Board may vote in a lower tax hike similar to last year's 1.7 %. accompanied by $13 million in cuts.

Though the preliminary budget comes with a 2.7% tax increase, it does not consider changes in state or federal revenues, other budgets and most notably, staff cuts. Furthermore, there would be no assessment changes. The current fund balance appropriation would be maintained at $750, 000, and the only increase would be in teacher contractual salary obligations and associated pension and medical benefits.

Simonetta specifically noted that 2014-15 district expenditures of $141 million versus revenues of $136 million, with the 2.7 % hike, left a $5 million deficit. However, with no tax increase the deficit jumps to a significantly higher $7 million.

When asked how the Board would handle a $5 million deficit, Simonetta said with possible staff and program reductions in addition to scheduling and offerings changes. He said the Board would be reviewing, discussing, and analyzing everything in great detail in the upcoming months.

Easton Superintendent John Reinhart remarked "We have to look at staffing and the best ways to do business differently." He continued, "To think we're not going to lose staff or programs is not looking at the reality of this."

Budget timelines include the Board adopting a tax resolution or the preliminary budget being made available to the public by the end of January and its adoption by February 19th. The adoption of a proposed final budget is slated for the end of May with the adoption of the final budget voted into law by June 2015.


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