Parkland School District’s new $137.7 million budget is $460,000 lower than the current budget, but still will require a 3.67 percent tax increase.
The 2012-13 budget was passed unanimously by Parkland School Board Tuesday night.
Freezing teachers’ salaries, using more than $3 million in cash reserves and cutting staff were just a few of numerous steps taken to minimize the tax increase.
The budget will raise taxes by $112 for Parkland property owners with homes worth $153,824, the average market value of houses in the district, according to John Vignone, the district’s director of business administration.
No one from the public had any comments or questions about the budget before the board’s vote.
“We strive to ensure the competing interests of a high quality educational program and the ability of the tax-paying public to afford it maintain a respectful balance,” said Parkland Superintendent Richard Sniscak.
Board member David Kennedy said he had only voted for two budget increases in his 14 or 15 years on the board, but would vote yes this time “as much as I hate a tax hike.”
“We’ve done everything we can do,” said Kennedy. “Every rock has been turned. There’s just nothing left.”
Sniscak said the 1.46-mill tax increase is needed to help offset a decrease in state funding, as well as lost revenue from successful assessment appeals and Parkland tax revenue lost to Allentown’s controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone funding mechanism.
As of Tuesday, said Sniscak, the proposed state budget for 2012-13 contains no increase in money to be used in classrooms, “leaving it up to local school boards to decide how much their community can bear when it comes to a local tax increase or sacrifices to educational programs.”
In addition, Sniscak said Parkland stands to lose at least $200,000 a year in earned income tax revenue that will go to the Allentown’s NIZ for the center-city hockey arena project.
Sniscak noted Parkland’s annual loss to Allentown may increase in the future as the city develops more NIZ projects, which will mean more people who live in the school district will work in those areas of the city. Kennedy indicated that annual loss may continue for 30 years.
Even with the tax increase, Sniscak named other major steps Parkland is forced to take to balance the new budget:
• A wage freeze on teachers’ salaries for the 2012-13 school year.
• Elimination of 24 professional staff positions, three administrative positions and 33 support staff positions -- all leading to increased class size but “decreased educational opportunities and services” – while saving $3.4 million.
• Using $1.3 million that had been saved by refinancing two bonds.
• Reducing bus runs to save $240,000.
• Reducing school supply budgets by 10 percent district wide.
• Using $800,000 in bond funds to purchase technology infrastructure.
• Reducing intramurals and athletic programs by $110,000.
• Reducing Parkland’s budget reserve by $250,000.
• Appropriating $3.33 million of the district’s fund balance.
“These are sad times for public education,’” said board member Roberta Marcus. “At the end of the day, the children are the ones that are going to suffer the most.”
Marcus added the district has a very supportive community “and we appreciate that very much. We really want to provide a comprehensive curriculum to our students because they are our future.”
The board voted 7-0 in favor of the budget, with two members absent.
Sniscak said the administration already has started work on the 2013-14 budget, adding “the cycle never ends.”
“Thank God for John Vignone,” said board member Mark Hanichak. “He is the engineer and the architect of this budget. I really appreciate the fact that we’ve got John Vignone in this district.”
Also during the meeting, the school board unanimously approved the appointment of 39-year-old James Moniz II as the new principal of Parkland High School, at an annual salary of $118,000. The board introduced and applauded Moniz, who was at the meeting with his wife Lisa and their three sons.
Moniz, former principal of Dieruff High School in Allentown, has worked at Parkland for a year as curriculum supervisor of secondary education. He will start July 1, replacing acting principal Harrison Bailey. Moniz resides in Bethlehem.
Before the board approved retirements and resignations, Marcus singled out a few retirees for their long-time service to the district:
• Kathleen Whittaker, administrative assistant in Parkland High’s library, will retire Aug. 31 after 27 years.
• Beatrice Kuntz, head cook at Kratzer Elementary School, will retire June 30 after 38 years.
• Dennis Rothrock, full-day school bus driver, is retiring by June 30 after 21 years.
The board also approved changing secondary early dismissal times from 12:45 to 1 p.m. for the coming school year.