Small property tax hike, school staff cuts looming in Nazareth Area district

Posted: 11:11 PM EST Feb 04, 2013   Updated: 11:41 PM EST Feb 04, 2013

Property owners in the Nazareth Area School District will have to pay a bit more in taxes if a 2013-2014 budget tentatively adopted by the school board Monday night remains unchanged. But the amount won't be quite as much as originally proposed.

The $71,437,116 budget will require a real estate tax increase of .73 mills, putting the rate at 49.28 mills, schools supt. Dennis Riker told the board before it gave its approval by an 8-0 vote. Riker could not say exactly how much the tax hike will cost the average homeowner, but the tax rate is 1.5 percent above this year's rate.

Riker's original budget called for a .92 mill tax hike. But the superintendent said he found ways to cut back -- including slicing $68,543 from personnel.

Asked after the meeting how many positions and what areas are in jeopardy, Riker would only say, "We're not ready to say what they are yet. But we [administrators and the board] have talked about it in executive sessions."

Riker said he had to add two new hires to the budget -- $75,209 for a Title I position that he inadvertently omitted from his original budget, and $12,900 for a Title I part-time associate.

On the other side of the ledger, Riker said the district could expect to take in $20,360 more in real estate tax revenue than he originally anticipated, and that he expects the district will earn $25,000 from the solar field at the intermediate school and the solar panels on the roof of the middle school.

Riker said he also shaved $10,000 in administrative costs. He said a lot of the savings are tied to his not having to advertise for people to fill positions. With so many teachers losing their jobs in area districts over the last few years, "I have a lot of applications on file,"

he noted.

The board and the administration will continue to work on a final budget, which must be adopted by June. For the time being, "This is a good start," said the board's newest member, Dominic Villani.

In a related budget matter, the board approved the 2013-2014 budget for the Career Institute of Technology. Nazareth is one of five districts who contribute to the budget, and its share for the next school year will be $1,324,349.

Almost a million dollars will go to the CIT's operating budget -- that's an almost 8 percent drop from 2012-13. The rest will go for debt service on a renovation/addition project -- which is almost 5 percent less than this year's total.

Board member Chris Miller was appointed to be one of the district's two representatives on the CIT board. He will finish out the term of former board member Chris Audenreid, who resigned to become a member of Nazareth Borough Council in December.