As the annual budget process moves closer to completion, the Bangor Area School District is considering trimming, but not cutting, sewing and wood shop classes.
The proposal to cut those classes riled some parents who called and emailed school board members before Monday night’s work session, urging them to spare the vocational classes from the chopping block.
Facing a $1.1 million deficit in a proposed $51.6 million budget, the district originally recommended discontinuing the two programs but by restructuring the classes and shifting teachers, the district found a way to preserve them, though not to the level they had been offered before.
Under the current system, all middle school students, some 475, are in those programs but that would change under the new proposal, which would mean they would get one year, not two years, of exposure to those classes.
Those programs and the district’s long-term financial health sparked debate among board members and criticism from Ron Angle, the former Northampton County Council member and ex-school board member.
The board will vote on the budget next Monday
The administration is proposing a 2.7 percent tax increase, the maximum permitted by the state, in part to lessen the pain of what is expected to be another round of proposed cuts and tax hikes in the budget the board will vote on next year.
Superintendent Frank DeFelice said the district will need $400,000 in additional cuts next year.
“I don’t recall a program ever being cut,” board member Michael Goffredo said. “That’s got to come. Somewhere down the road we’ve got to bite the bullet.”
“I totally agree with you,” DeFelice said.
If the 2.7 percent tax hike is approved next week, taxpayers with a $100,000 home assessed at $50,000 would be facing another $69 a year in their school tax bill, said Business Manager Steve Wiencek.
In another sign of increasing costs, Wiencek said the district’s worker’s compensation premium has jumped from $178,000 this year to $271,000 next year.
“We got hit with a couple of high dollar claims,” he told the board.
Angle chastised the board for what he characterized as its cavalier approach to raising taxes.
“A lot of people are on the edge,” Angle said. “2.7 percent to a lot of people means a lot.”
‘I don’t think you understand what this means to people,” he said.