The Easton Area School Board voted Tuesday night for a preliminary budget that raises school district property taxes by nearly five percent.

While that might be unwelcome news to some property owners, the vote Tuesday was cheered by parents who argued that higher taxes will equal fewer staff cuts and thus a better education for their children.

The proposed $137 million budget would be balanced with a 4.9 percent tax increase, and the elimination of 36 jobs. For the owner of a property with an assessed value of $60,000, that increase amounts to $159 more in school taxes next year.

School officials stressed that there's still a lot of work to be done before the final budget is passed this spring.

"This is the starting point," said Michael Simonetta, the district's chief operating officer. "We're hoping that number could be reduced."

The board had also been considering another budget, with a lower tax increase-- 2.7 percent -- and 56 job cuts. And it only arrived at the 4.9 percent increase after two votes and a lot of debate.

Board member, Dominick Buscemi, argued that the tax increase amounted to an extra $1.37 a day, which he said people would be willing to pay in order to preserve education.

"If someone's going to lose their home over $1.37 a week, we've got one foot out the door already," Buscemi said.

But board member Kerri Leonard-Ellison said taxpayers are dealing with more than just school taxes: "In this economy, a lot of expenses are going up."

Superintendent John Reinhart said it's too soon to tell which jobs would be cut or saved under the preliminary budget, but added that it's likely the middle school music program-- which had been in danger of being eliminated -- will remain.

Board President Frank Pintabone said board members hope to meet with district teachers as soon as possible to begin discussing other ways to trim the budget.