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At a May 10 school board meeting, Christine Acevedo, Forest City Regional High School Principal, introduced students selected as the school’s outstanding seniors for the months of March and April.
Kaitlyn Schott, the FCR Scholar of the Year, was named March Outstanding Senior. Acevedo quoted one of Schott’s teachers as saying, “[Schott’s] work is well above average, and she goes the extra mile in all her assignments.” Schott was also praised for her originality. The senior is involved in art club, Mock Trial, National Honor Society and attended Districts in band and jazz band. Schott also edits the school newspaper and served as captain of the reading competition team. Schott plans to attend Keystone College.
Taylor Gerchman and DJ Yestrepsky were chosen as the April Outstanding Seniors. Gerchman, president of the senior class, is also involved in Mock Trial, Spanish Club, cheerleading and soccer. She placed on the high honor roll and attended FBLA Regional and State Competitions. Gerchman plans to study pre-law at Lock Haven University.
Yestrepsky, secretary of his class, serves as a sergeant at the Browndale Fire Company. He has also been involved in Envirothon and Future Business Leaders of America and served as varsity soccer captain. Yestrepsky earned an ROTC scholarship and plans to study criminal justice at the University of Scranton.
Next, students involved in FBLA thanked the school board for funding their trip to the state competition, where the school placed fourth. About 130 Forest City students currently participate in FBLA.
During the Public Comment portion of the meeting, Dr. James Zefran questioned the board on its policy on V-Link courses offered through the NEIU. Board members explained that they recently established a V-Link committee and that a policy “will be forthcoming.” Zefran asserted that there are no V-Link links on the school’s website and asked, “How do parents find out that these courses are available to their children?” The board stated that mailings will be sent home.
Similarly, Zefran stated that there is nothing pertaining to dual-enrollment on the school website, saying, “there is absolutely no information available to the public.” Acevedo vowed that the website will be updated to include information on V-Link and dual-enrollment. Information on dual-enrollment can also be found in the FCR Student Handbook.
Concerning finance, the board approved a proposed district payment of $254,824 for the Lackawanna County Career Technology Center for the 2010-2011 school year. The board also adopted the FCRSD budget for 2010-2011 in the amount of $12,837,429.
Brian Durkin was approved as athletic director for the coming school year.
The state budget had not been passed as of May 12, the date of the Susquehanna Community School Board meeting, and was a topic of interest, as the district’s allocations for the coming year are not yet known. Superintendent Bronson Stone said that, at this point, it appears as though the district will see an overall reduction of $48,000 in funding. Preliminary reports indicate that the district will either receive a 2% increase in basic education funding, or no increase at all.
There is, however, to be a tax credit for eligible property owners from gaming revenues, $303.16 for those in Susquehanna County and $302.71 for those in Wayne County.
Mr. Stone also noted that the method of obtaining Title funding is changing; it used to be based on a regular formula, but will now be obtained through a competitive grant process. Larger school districts will have the resources to use grant writing teams to obtain funding, and will most likely have a better chance of obtaining it. He said that the state association of rural schools is lobbying against the change.
In other business, it was noted that the previous weekend’s weather had destroyed the ball field dugout; the district was awaiting an evaluation by the insurance adjuster before proceeding with replacing it. The new scoreboard will be put up once school is out, thanks to a number of individuals who will be donating their labor.
Graduation is scheduled for June 12, and Class Night will be held on June 4, and there will be a picnic on June 2 to celebrate the district’s PSSA success.
A building-to-building emergency evacuation drill was set to be held on the following day, and there will be a campus-wide evacuation drill held on May 19. On that day, Turnpike St. will be closed during the drill, and parents are urged not to come to the school, as it is a drill. Many community stakeholders (hospital, police, etc.) will be participating in the drill to ensure that it is run safely.
Both buildings’ students will be participating in a summer reading program, and were pleased to announce a substantial donation of books by Penguin Publishing.
Each year, one student is nominated by the elementary principal of each of the county’s districts to receive recognition as an academic scholar; this year, the district’s Principal’s Award recipient is Rachael Serfillippi. A luncheon was held yesterday for the principals and the recipients from each of their districts.
Other items approved by the board are as follows:
- A tentative budget of $14,146,472 for the 2010-11 school year, setting the district millage in Susquehanna County at 42.30 and 14.16 in Wayne County.
- Bids for supplies for the 2010-11 school year, and giving the business officer permission to order supplies.
- Election of a board treasurer for the 2010-11 school year, Martha Stanford.
- The concurrent enrollment agreement with Luzerne County Community College for the 2010-11 school year.
- An agreement with Thomas P. Theobald, Government Software Services, for the printing of tax duplicates for Starrucca Boro for 2010.
- An agreement with INFOCON Corp., for printing of tax duplicates for the district for 2010.
- The 2010-11 Title I Parent Involvement Policy.
- In-home instruction for an eighth grade student.
- An agreement with NEIU 19 for Discovery Education streaming services for the 2010-11 school year.
- Homebound instruction for an eleventh grade student.
- A program of studies for grades 7-12 for the 2010-11 school year.
- Peoples National Bank as a depository for district funds for the 2010-11 school year.
- Adopting a list of textbooks for the high school.
- Appointment of Attorney James A. Kelly and Joseph Gaughn as the district solicitors for the 2010-11 school year.
- A dress code policy revision beginning with the 2010-11 school year; flip-flops are no longer allowed, in response to a number of injuries that have occurred, both on campus and on buses.
- Released time classes with Child Evangelism Fellowship of Susquehanna County for the 2010-11 school year.
- A consulting service agreement with Kathy Matis for the 2010-11 school year; the agreement covers professional development for grades 4-12 and is largely covered by Enhancing Education Through Technology funding.
- Classroom substitute teacher rates for 2010-12; it covers those working consecutive days at the same assignment.
-Hiring of the following: Megan Clough, elementary life skills; Carmen Maby, elementary learning support; Melissa Franks, high school life skills; summer elementary teachers Debra Stone, Carolyn Homer, Daniel Maurer; Roze DeCicco, elementary special ed aide; Debra White, elementary special ed aide and bus aide; grade span leaders, one year only, Beth Tingley, K4-1, Carolyn Homer, 2-4, and Rich Emmons, 5-6.
- Two additions to the substitute list, a bus driver and an elementary teacher.
- The resignations of Elizabeth Updyke, specialist dept. head and Teresa Marino, fall drama advisor.
- Hiring of a list of summer school teachers.
- Adding Roxann Lloyd to the emergency game manager list.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 16, 7:00 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.
Michael R. Danatos to Victor L. and Susan K. Gagnon, in Jackson Township for $109,000.00.
Esther T. and Robert J. Welden to Janet Fish, in Montrose for one dollar.
Katherine Kreer (trust by trustee) and Linda Sullivan (trust by trustee) to Richard Delousia, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Katherine Kreer (trust by trustee) and Linda Sullivan (trust by trustee) to Silver Lake Presbyterian Church, in Silver Lake Township for $29,000.00.
Moon River Realty LLC to Jean S. Hirsch, in New Milford Borough for one dollar.
Jean S. Hirsch to Moon River Realty LLC, in New Milford Borough for one dollar.
Christine Mooney to Federal National Mortgage Association, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Robert W. and Mariam S. (AKA) Miriam S. Klenk to Miriam S. Klenk, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Lyncott Corporation to McCosar Minerals, Inc., in New Milford Township for $177,600.00.
John J. Plankey to Deborah Donovan Czyriak, Kevin, Thin and Eugene Donovan, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Thin and Eugene Donovan to Deborah Donovan Czyriak and Kevin Donovan, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Keith A. Pote to Brenda L. Bittner, in Bridgewater Township for $37,000.00.
Edward J. Bryk (estate) to Mary (guardian), Edward J. (guardian) and Vincent Bryk, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Jerald E. and Lejune P. Ely to Paul Christian Hessert, Judith Ann Broughton and Lynne Margaret Sanders, in Brooklyn Township for $4,900.00.
Susan Nied Lee to Susan Nied and David J. Lee, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Mark J. and Jennifer A. Huinsinger to Christopher D. Black, in Brooklyn and Dimock Townships for $105,000.00.
Barbara W. Pease to First Congregational Church, in Harford Township for one dollar.
Merle W. Newman to Suzanne Brant, in Great Bend Township for $1,000.00.
Suzanne Brant to David A. and Patricia L. Derrick (AKA) Patricia L. Crammer, in Great Bend Township for $100.00.
Suzanne Brant to Suzanne Brant, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Suzanne Brant to David A. and Patricia L. Derrick, in Great Bend Township for $8,000.00.
David A. and Patricia L. Derrick to David A. and Patricia L. Derrick, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Robert B. Keenan to Teresa Keenan, in Middletown, Choconut and Forest Lake Townships for one dollar.
Paul A. and Pamela E. (by atty) Kelly to John Sershen, in Rush Township for $55,000.00.
Maurice L. Harvey (estate) to Dennis and Stacie Rapp, in Forest Lake Township for $68,000.00.
James Franko to Jeffrey M., Jr. and Bobbie Jo Herbert, in Lathrop Township for $25,000.00.
Elsie Terches (estate) and David Lauriha to Jennifer and Jeanne M. Katz, in Forest City for $53,000.00.
John and Jennifer Megivern to Paul J. and Kristin L. McAndrew, in Clifford Township for $173,000.00.
Carol Nunes and Thomas J. Stepnosky to Greg Congdon, in Clifford Township for $500.00.
Ronald C. Nagy to Nagy Trust, in Forest Lake Township.
Scott F. and Meredith L. Reinhart to William F. and Catherine A. Wallace, in Ararat Township for $200,000.00.
Marie Lanza (estate) to Susquehanna County Commissioners, in Montrose, for $190,000.00.
Prudential Relocation, Inc. to Aaron Benson, in Susquehanna for $73,140.00.
Reading Materials, Inc. to Reading Materials, Inc., in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Rodger G. Foreman and Jill Renfrew (NKA) Jill R. Foreman to David J. and Amy A. Decker, in Auburn Township for $102,500.00.
William J. and Joan C. Black to Deborah A. Sherman, in Herrick Township for $150,000.00.
Eric W. and Julie L. Lewis to Eric W. and Julie L. Lewis, in Jessup Township for one dollar.
Edna R. Christensen to John W. (trust) and Edna R. (trust) Christensen, in Auburn Township for one dollar.
Douglas H. Summerville vs. Erika R. Summerville, both of Brackney, married 2000.
Kristy Starbuck of Thompson vs. Billy Starbuck of Waymart, married 2001.
The Susquehanna County Domestic Relations Section has bench warrants for the following individuals as of 10:38 a.m. on May 14, 2010.
Antonio L. Alcantara, Duane Aldrich, Erika L. Back, David Shawn Blaisure, Devin S. Brewer, Bryan Scott Burnett, Howard A. Burns, III, Darryl M. Chaffee, Frank Deriancho, Deborah L. Drish, David J. Fischer, Racheal L. Frisbie, George Graham, David Haines, Jr., Ceejay B. Halstead, James Karhnak, Erik E. Krisovitch, Charlie J. Legere, Carlos L. Leiser, Jason Lindquist, Kimberly L. Mershon, Joann M. Murnock, Robert A. Muzzy, Shane Nelson, Anthony Neri, Sheri Pabon, James E. Purse, Arthur D. Quick, Jesse R. Rhinebeck, Jr., David J. Shiner, Richard D. Shoemaker, Duane Spencer, Garrett M. Thomas (aka Staudinger), Justin Thompson, Christina L. Trayes, Keith W. Vroman, Bradley D. Warner, Sr., Jamie L. Williams, Kenneth L. Wilmot, Jr., Karl D. Zantowsky.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Section at 570-278-4600 ext. 170 with any information on the location of these individuals.
Susquehanna County Commissioners approved the hiring of Tom Button to head the county’s Tax Assessment office when Richard Kamansky retires later this year. Button is presently employed in the Assessment office, and was hired to the full time position of Chief Assessor effective May 13, at $35,000 per year, plus benefits. Upon Kamansky’s retirement in August, Button’s title will be Director of Assessment/Chief Assessor.
Also at the May 12 meeting, Commissioners agreed to a memorandum of understanding between the Susquehanna County Cooperative Extension Association and Susquehanna County Children and Youth for operating expenses and program delivery expenses to support a Family and Consumer Sciences/Family Resiliency Educator for the period of July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. Jan Cohen currently holds the Educator position. Both expenses are limited to $10,000 (county share, $2000).
Commissioners also signed a memorandum of agreement between Pennsylvania State University and Susquehanna County Services for Children and Youth, to continue the financial partnership supporting the educator position for an additional three years, July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2013. The total cost reimbursable to Penn State will not exceed $91,707, the county’s share being no more than $18,342. Payment under both agreements is contingent upon availability of State and County funds.
Three county employees were honored for years of service. Mary Rosengrant has served in the 911 department for 10 years. Joanne Wiser has been a corrections officer at the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility for 15 years. One of her main duties is to train new employees and provide refresher classes for employees to remain in compliance with Act 37 (state law). Joanne said when she began her job, it was a totally new experience for her, but she “went for it.” After 15 years Joanne says every day is still a new adventure and she enjoys her job.
Matthew Purdy of Soil Conservation was recognized for five years of service. Later in the meeting, the commissioners accepted, with regret, Purdy’s resignation. Purdy will become the new Environmental Education Coordinator at Salt Springs State Park. May 24 is his last day of work for the County. One of his responsibilities has been oversight of the Dirt and Gravel Roads program. His position will not be advertised at this time. Conservation employee Robert Fearnley has been training to oversee the Dirt and Gravel Roads program.
The county has been using land owned by trustees of the Zoran Cupic Life Insurance Trusts in Harmony Township for operation of an emergency communication tower and other necessary equipment. Commissioners signed a lease agreement for January 1, 2010 through December 21, 2019, with annual rent at $6,000. The county also agreed to pay $6,000 per year for 2008 and 2009. The county may terminate the lease with a sixty day notice.
Robert Thorne, of Tunkhannock, was hired to the open, full-time position of 911 dispatcher trainee. District Justice Peter Janicelli has accepted, with regret, the resignation of Sharon Decker, effective June 2
An audience member questioned the commissioners on compliance with payment of the county hotel tax, specifically mentioning the Montrose Bible Conference. Al Aronowitz questioned the conference’s exempt status. The Commissioners replied that they had been in contact with the county solicitor, and the matter is under consideration.
The next Susquehanna County Commissioners meeting is 9 a.m., Wednesday, May 26, in the County Office Building downstairs conference room, 31 Public Avenue, Montrose.
Susquehanna County Commissioners held a special meeting on May 3 to finalize a loan agreement for the purchase of a property at 7 Chenango Street, Montrose. A short-term loan was secured from Community Bank & Trust of $125,000 for a period of 30 days, at 3.25% interest, calculated on a 365-day year. The county was the highest bidder for the property, offering $190,000, in June, 2008. The property will be used for storage at present. It is possible some county offices could be moved to the location at a future date.
The meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors on May 11 was treated to a reading of a new noise ordinance developed by Supervisor Garry Foltz. Mr. Foltz read the entire ordinance into the record, including some amendments recommended by the township’s solicitor. The new measure will be advertised and available for public review until the next meeting in June, when the Supervisors expect to formally adopt it.
According to Mr. Foltz, the noise ordinance especially hopes to minimize the impact of gas extraction activities on the peace and tranquility of Harford, particularly in its two villages. He emphasized that the Supervisors have “no intention to undermine businesses” with the ordinance, which requires noisy equipment to be properly muffled and limited to normal daytime hours. It specifically exempts some types of sounds, particularly for daylight hours, as well as celebratory emissions for Independence Day and New Year’s Day; the measure also provides for waivers on the signature of two Supervisors.
“Nuisance” noise is variously described in the ordinance as “disturbing, excessive,” “loud, unnecessary or unusual,” “unreasonable or harsh,” and includes “yelling, shouting, whistling,” as well as electronically-emitted sounds audible beyond 50 feet from a property line or vehicle. The intent of the document is to preserve the “physical, mental and social well-being” of township residents, and the “quiet enjoyment of their residential premises.”
Mr. Foltz said that he is working on a companion ordinance to address gas exploration in the township, which will specify acceptable decibel levels and require the installation of metering equipment. He is most concerned about the placement of compressor stations with large engines that would run continuously.
He is also developing an ordinance to protect historical sites in the township. But he said there were additional complexities involving state regulations that would delay this measure.
In other business, Mr. Foltz reported that a grant application that would help provide funds to repave School Street in Harford village was approved by the county. It still needs to be accepted by the state. According to Supervisor Terry VanGorden, the “determining factor” was the location of a senior citizen housing facility on that street.
The Supervisors announced that the annual “cleanup” will take place this year during the first week of June, following Memorial Day, that is, Tuesday through Friday, June 1 through 4. The cost will be $50 per load (a pickup truck with a staked bed). Tires will be extra, at $4 apiece. No wood or household garbage will be accepted. Paint cans must be empty. To get more details and to sign up, residents should call the Township office.
The Supervisors are considering the single bid for leasing Township property for gas exploration from Cabot Oil at $5,750 per acre and 21.5% royalty. The lease will not permit surface disruption and would cover 4 parcels totaling about 14 acres.
Alternating Roadmasters Foltz and VanGorden reported that berming, ditching and pipe replacement in section 1 (East of the Interstate) is nearing completion, with road work to follow. The guard rail on Plank Road has been replaced following an accident; the cost will be covered by insurance.
Similarly, some large expenses to repair a truck that overturned during plowing in February will be covered by Township insurance. So far the cost exceeds $16,000.
According to Mr. Foltz, the Township’s newest employee, Eric Allen, is doing a fine job and will be given full-time status effective May 3. Mr. Allen is preparing to get a CDL license (which he doesn’t need as a fireman, even though he drives the large fire trucks). After a 60-day probation period, Mr. Allen will be eligible for Township benefits.
Mr. VanGorden reported that the rest of the new road signs have been received. After some corrections, the signs will be placed in compliance with new state regulations. This will complete a 2-year project to replace all township road signs with new, bigger and more reflective signs.
And finally, a couple who live on Tingley Lake requested the status of a long-delayed project to replace a sluice under Stearns Road. During the flood of June 2006, several homes on the lake were damaged by high water when the lake backed up. The sluice is gradually collapsing and is choked by debris each Spring. The couple’s home has been flooded twice and they are not eager to face another.
The township has already received an engineering design to replace the sluice with a much bigger one, but the Supervisors have been unwilling to shoulder the $200,000 estimated cost without help. A grant was applied for some time ago, and is still under consideration by the state, according to Supervisor and Secretary Sue Furney. Mr. Foltz said that the township can’t afford the cost without increasing taxes substantially, even though the township received an interest-free loan from the state to help with such projects.
“It has to be fixed,” said the lake resident. “If people get flooded again, there’s going to be a lot of court cases,” he said. “They’re upset now that nothing has happened” in the 4 years since the last major flood, referring to lakeside residents who incurred substantial damage the last time.
The next public meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors is scheduled for Tuesday, June 8, beginning at 7:00 p.m. All meetings are held at the township office on Route 547.
There were 3 separate sessions for the May 10 meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board. The Curriculum and Facilities Committees met early, followed by a business meeting of the full Board, followed in turn by a gathering of the Finance Committee. The main business session itself had a 34-point agenda, further augmented by two separate addenda with 5 more points. Nearly 40 people attended all or part of the evening’s events.
The Curriculum Committee focused on options for a behind-the-wheel driver education program. High School Principal Scott Jeffery offered three possibilities. Options 1 and 2 would have the district purchase a car of its own, which could be used for other purposes when not in use for driver training. Option 3, Mr. Jeffery’s recommendation, would “out-source” the entire program to a private contractor for $45-$50 per hour; depending on how many students sign up for the program, and how much students and their families would be assessed, the cost to the district could be anywhere from about $3,300 to $8,100 per year. With the first option - purchase of a vehicle and instruction offered in-house during school hours - ruled out by everyone, Board President Alan Hall said he would like to consider Option 2 further before making a recommendation to the full Board. Under Option 2, the district would purchase a car but contract out the instruction.
There was not much new to report on the several items on the Facilities & Grounds Committee’s agenda. Members did discuss options for mural paintings in the schools proposed earlier in the year, and a proposal for a water garden was ruled out for now. The Committee also considered a request from a teacher to paint her classroom with “warmer” colors. The administration was asked to come up with a collection of colors, and the committee would “see what it looks like.” The major concern with these suggestions is with maintenance of walls painted in different ways as they accumulate wear and tear over the years.
The meeting of the full School Board opened with Mr. Jeffery’s introduction of his two Senior standouts for May, Jared Conklin of New Milford, and Megan Conroy of Hallstead. Both thanked their parents and teachers for their support and outlined their achievements at Blue Ridge.
Mr. Hall then moved to expedite the meeting by asking for a single motion on all but 7 of the main agenda items. These included, among other routine matters:
Approving an agreement with PA Treatment & Healing (PATH) for the next school year to provided alternative services for disruptive students.
Renewing membership in the VLINC (Virtually Linking Instruction and Curriculum) consortium sponsored by NEIU 19 (North Eastern Instructional Unit, known as the “IU”) for distance-learning services for the next school year. The IU has conceded that VLINC has not yet reached its potential and will be working to improve the program next year.
Renewing the agreement with Dr. Alan Hinkley as the school dentist for next year at the same rate of $7.50 per exam.
Renewing the agreement with NEPA Community Health Care as the school physician for next year at the same rate of $125 per hour for physical examinations.
Approving a contract with Eleanor Conroy to review Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for ACCESS Medical Practitioner Authorizations at the rate of $50 per hour.
Approving a donation of $5,900 from the Community Foundation of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties to sponsor an enrichment program for grades 3, 4 and 5 this summer.
Approving the selection of teachers and rates of pay for the various summer sessions.
Approving quotes from School Specialty, Inc. of Bellingham, WA for “Premier” planners for each of the 3 schools. Mr. Hall would like the Board to have final approval of the planners when drafts are available.
Reelecting Joel Whitehead as Board Treasurer.
Reappointing the district’s list of depositories for next year, to include Peoples National Bank, PennStar Bank, Salomon Smith Barney, PA Invest, PLGIT (Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust), and Community Bank & Trust.
Approving the summer food program supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Education. This program provides free lunches to virtually anyone participating in a program on the district campus over the summer.
Approving the elementary school reading program for next year. This is an entire package of reading materials from Pearson Education, Inc. with a total quoted cost of nearly $75,000.
Approving “religious instruction release time” for next year for a program provided by Child Evangelism Fellowship of Susquehanna County, Inc.
Participating in the Arts in Education program sponsored by the IU and the associated Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program that allows corporate sponsors to claim a tax credit for contributing to educational programs.
Approving renovations to food service equipment for a total cost of over $102,000.
Approving a letter of support for Susquehanna County CARES, which will help that organization apply for a half-million-dollar grant to offer cooperative in-home visits, training and related programs to help improve parent-teacher coordination for pre-Kindergarten through 3rd grade students. Stephanie Thornton, CARES Director, made a presentation to the Curriculum Committee. She said that the program will cost the district nothing, if the application is accepted. She said that 4 Blue Ridge teachers have already volunteered for the program.
The first set of additions to the agenda hired Ellen Luce as business office accountant, beginning in June. Ms. Luce attended the meeting to accept the Board’s welcome. The Board also accepted a recommendation for clerical support during summer reorganization. And the Board finalized agreements with the principals following lengthy Act 93 negotiations. Mr. Hall said that the major items in the agreements require the principals to contribute 2% of their health insurance premiums, and a salary increase of only 1% in the coming year.
The major announcement came with a special addendum distributed by Mr. Hall himself, announcing the retirement of Superintendent Chris Dyer, effective at the end of the fiscal year, on June 30. When Mr. Dyer arrived 2 years ago, he said that he expected to end his career at Blue Ridge after about 5 years. His letter of intent to retire was accepted with regret.
Following the business meeting, Mr. Hall called a meeting of the Finance Committee to review a preliminary budget prepared by Business Manager Loren Small. The new budget, to take effect on July 1, would spend more than $18 million, draw down the district’s “fund balance” by about $400,000, and require a tax increase of 1.69 mills. The Pennsylvania Governor has offered a budget that includes a substantial increase in education funding, but its prospects in the legislature are unclear. Mr. Small allowed for an increase of only $150,000 in state subsidy for Blue Ridge. Mr. Hall noted that state support for special education has not increased in 2 years, yet mandated requirements keep increasing. In fact, Special Education Director Mark Fallon said that he would be requesting two additional staff for next year. The budget also includes $400,000 to cover tuition for students enrolled with charter schools.
More serious was an analysis of 3 major components of the budget projected out to 2017 and beyond. The most dramatic increase can be expected in district contributions to the state retirement fund (Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS). Because of the downturn in the investment markets in the last couple of years, PSERS is underfunded and the state is mandating that school districts increase their payments into the system by as much as 700% by 2017. According to Mr. Small’s analysis, the required contributions in the 2016-2017 school year could cost Blue Ridge taxpayers as much as 12 mills in new property tax assessments. Mr. Hall estimated that PSERS contributions and debt service alone could demand nearly half of the budget by 2017. Taken together, these three items - PSERS payments, debt service and health insurance costs - could require as much as 49 mills in property taxes. This would be on top of the cost of normal operations, more than doubling the property tax burden. Mr. Hall said that, if nothing happens in Harrisburg to stop it, local taxpayers can expect increases of as much as 50-75%.
All that money, of course, supports the education of the children in the Blue Ridge district, many of whom succeed wonderfully as assets to their communities. Mr. Jeffery reported that the High School’s National Honor Society is cleaning up local parks, Senior Taylor Guinan was named Scholar of the Year at an IU banquet; and Eric Onyon recently received an award in the Discovering Tomorrow’s Leaders program sponsored by local businesses and organizations, and may win one of 2 new computers to be presented at a later banquet. Middle School Principal Matthew Nebzydoski reported that his school collected more than $800 in contributions for research in Rett’s Disorder, a form of autism that affects a student in Blue Ridge Elementary School.
To hear more about your schools’ successes - and how much they cost - the next meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board is scheduled for June 24, beginning at 7:30 p.m., with committee meetings commencing an hour earlier, and maybe afterward as well. All meetings are in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
The Montrose school board members publicly expressed their support of Pennsylvania House Bill 940 , which would amend the public school code to mandate cyber schools more tightly, and bring their funding more in line with the actual cost of instructing the students. It was stated that, of the payments districts make to these private schools, only 30% or so is reimbursed by the state. The amount charged to the public schools, it was further maintained, is not representative of the actual cost of operation. Cyber school tuition for its students has represented a significant amount of expenditure for Montrose district. In 2008/2009 the district paid out $354,000 for 36 students. Over six years, including the 08/09 year, 1.337 million dollars was spent, of which only $314,000 was reimbursed. In addition to this, only four of those cyber charter schools, it was said, met annual yearly progress during that time. One district representative expressed his desire for such information to be used to alert the public, as he claimed that cyber schools tell interested clients that it doesn’t cost the district anything for them to attend online. In truth, the district pays what the state assigns as the cost of instructing students, not what it actually costs. The HB940 would look at the three most prominent of these charter schools, examine their books, and see what their real cost per student is.
A preliminary budget was approved, with a $24,601,978 value. The current plan, as one council member replied when asked, is not to raise taxes.
The board approved an occupational services facilities agreement for another year. There was then some discussion about the organization the district has been contracting with, which all who spoke, spoke of positively. Some neighboring school districts, it was stated, have even been converted to the service. Some parents have expressed satisfaction with it, and the intermediate unit might even look into it for summer work. Occupational therapy was defined as dealing with anything from the waist up, life skills, motor skills, etc. Staff can recommend a child for services, assessments are done, and then one or two times a week the child is worked with. This group, it was said, has been working very well with the instructors.
Mr. Geoffrey Wood, a federal agent with the US Department of Education Office of the Inspector General, attended the meeting to present to the board his organization, and its role in regards to the recent stimulus money. The Office of the Inspector General is responsible for investigating fraud, waste, and abuse as it pertains to department of education money. The office has auditors and criminal investigators, and responds to tips from a variety of sources. The audits run are pretty standard. A typical finding may be that money is used for programs it is not earmarked for, or a person is receiving bribes. Written into the stimulus package regulations was a little blurb that states that if any grantee has any information or responsible regarding such things, the grantee is responsible to bring it to the office. Mr. Ognosky asked if the reason the office was becoming involved was due to the large amount of federal stimulus money being disbursed. Mr. Wood responded that they have always been involved, but wouldn’t become actively involved unless something came up. He then provided the caveat that his presence at the meeting was in no way due to the fact that Montrose was in suspicion of anything.
Mr. Mccomb reported on his trip to accompany four students to the national archery tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. He said that the children represented the district very well, with all of the kids placing within the top 100 kids in their age groups, out of perhaps 7,000 students from around the country.
The day after the meeting, Mr. Owens reported, certain students were to receive an interesting opportunity. The students were to have a one hour direct one on one videoconference with former Justice Sandra Day O’Conner and Judge Marjorie Rendell.
Ms. Lusk broached the subject of the security camera project. Mr. Owens had put out an rfp requesting prospective respondents to address the security surveillance needs of the high school primarily, as well as to address some of the needs at the elementary level. The plan would involve placing nine additional cameras at Lathrop Street, in addition to six at Choconut Valley. Although the district currently utilizes video surveillance, the opportunity would be to augment this system. The proposed changes, it was postulated, should essentially double the district’s capacity.
A brief update on the new administration building was provided. A plan was put forth with a footprint about 500 feet less than the original blueprint. As of the meeting, specs were being worked on in regards to plumbing, electricity, etc.
Oakland Boro Council discussed their ongoing involvement in discussions to form a municipal police department at their May 13 meeting. The group, which consists of Oakland Boro, Oakland Township and Lanesboro, has lately been joined by Susquehanna Boro. A resolution was adopted appointing Mayor Randy Glover and Councilman Gary Boughton to represent Oakland. Mr. Glover explained that everything will go in stages, with regular reports to council; council will need to have a clear plan of what they would like to see in the way of services and will ultimately make any decisions. At this point, the boro’s only commitment is to form an advisory board that will be actively involved in planning the formation of a municipal police department.
The mayor reported that Oakland’s police had responded to 33 incidents during the month, from traffic stops, to domestic disputes, to animal complaints, and two citations were issued for burning a structure. There have been continuing complaints about an individual riding a lawn mower on the boro’s streets; the State Police have issued a citation but incidents have still been occurring. The boro police can issue a citation based on a complaint from a citizen without an officer actually witnessing the incident, but the person making the complaint would be required to testify.
Removal and cleanup of the old trailer at the park has been completed, and work on installing the new playground equipment will begin as soon as the weather allows.
There were two representatives of the Tri Boro Little League present to discuss why the league had opted not to play any games at the Oakland park this season. The main reasons, they said, were the overall condition of the park, lack of cleanliness, and a damaged fence. They said that any field must pass a safety inspection before being used for games, and there had been a lack of communication as far as who to contact to discuss their concerns. They said that they were willing to find a way for all involved parties to work together, and suggested that a meeting be set up with the Oakland Parks and Rec. committee as well as the soccer league. They said that it would be too late to schedule any games at the park this year, so far into the season, but they would be willing to discuss next year’s schedule. Two members of Oakland Rec. were present, and said that they had asked for a list of problems, but had never received one. It was noted that the fence has been repaired, and there have been cleanups held at the park and improvement plans are ongoing. Meeting information was exchanged, and all parties agreed to keep the lines of communication open.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, June 10, 7:00 p.m. at the Lanesboro Community Center.
Following is the list of names drawn to serve as Petit and Traverse jurors to appear in the Court of Common Pleas, Susquehanna County Courthouse, Montrose, on the first day of June at 9:00 a.m.
Apolacon Twp.: Darlene McGinniss.
Ararat Twp.: Robert Conklin, Frances Smyder.
Auburn Twp.: Carol Gregory, Joan Hoffman.
Bridgewater Twp.: Linda Blaisure, Peggy Engstrom, Donald Obrien, Timothy Reynolds.
Brooklyn Twp.: Cindy Albert.
Choconut Twp.: Dennis Byerly, Judith Davis, Jeff Ford.
Clifford Twp.: Colleen Heller, Peter Komorowsky, Joseph Meka, Doris Pappas, Patricia Verboys.
Dimock Twp.: Dennis Nagy, Jacqueline Rhodes.
Forest City, 1W: David Kerzic.
Forest City, 2W: Jeanne Suhadolink.
Forest Lake Twp.: Lynn Powell, Sharon Salsman, Anita Schneller.
Franklin Twp.: Donald Birchard.
Great Bend Twp.: Charles Emerson, Yvonne Gary, Jeffery Gulick, Robert Hornish, Angela Marvin, Kenneth Wescott.
Hallstead Boro: Theodore Brewster, Daniel Dorning, Rebecca Howe, Nelson Kellogg, Richard Russell, Becky Tierney.
Harford Twp.: Judith Smeltzer.
Harmony Twp.: James Sickles.
Jackson Twp.: Bryan Roosa.
Lanesboro Boro: Cora Cameron, Diana Cook.
Lathrop Twp.: Janice Watkins.
Lenox Twp.: Geraldine Pinker, Robert Taylor.
Liberty Twp.: David Carter, Rodney Oakley.
Little Meadows Boro: Gail Croft.
Montrose Boro, 1W: Sean Granahan, Robert McKinney.
Montrose Boro, 2W: Deborah Reimel.
New Milford Boro: Frida Giangrieco.
New Milford Twp.: Pat Lynch, Christine Whittemore.
Oakland Boro: Dale Weaver.
Rush Twp.: Chad Moore, Dick Richards, Jamie Roman.
Silver Lake Twp.: Christine Clark, Laurie Laskowski, Brendan McMahon, John Nagy, Amy Stoddard.
Springville Twp.: Warren Cosner, Daniel Diljak, Margaret Hinkley, Connie Miner, Troy Salsman, Elizabeth Sherman, Roger Williams.
Susquehanna Boro, 2W: Edward Collins, Cindy Detwiler.
Thompson Boro: Martin Hines.
Thompson Twp.: Rita Ranieri, Marjorie Whitney.
Union Dale Boro: Carol Byrnes.
Submitted By Andrew Chichura, D.Ed., Superintendent of Schools and James Mirabelli, Business Manager
Members of the Board of Education adopted a tentative budget during their regular May 10 public meeting. Primary themes of the budget presentations made before the Board were focused on the significant challenges that the economic crisis has presented in the preparation of the budget. The district continues to review the budget in order to ensure that it is as fiscally prudent as possible while balancing the needs for the Mountain View School District students with the ability of the community to fund the district programs. Being determined is the most efficient way to provide the most effective delivery of the educational program.
The 2010-2011 district budget calls for an expenditure of $17,944,558.00 with an income of $16,975,778.00. To make up for the projected deficit from revenues the district plans to utilize $968,780.00 from the district ending fund balance. Utilization of the districts fund balance in this manner creates an additional financial crisis for future years. Using the district’s undesignated fund reserves is like spending the family savings; once spent, it cannot be replaced.
In the tentative budget for 2010-2011 the Board has adopted the maximum allowable increase of 1.2 mills which is a 3.9% increase in the tax rate. This year’s tentative rate for local real estate tax is 33.7 mills as compared to 32.5 mills for the 2009-2010 budget.
What does the projected increase in the millage rate mean for the average taxpayer? A mill represents $1.00 for every $1,000.00 assessed property value. A tax increase of 1.2 mills will translate into $1.20 of additional taxes for each $1,000.00 of assessed value for the average homeowner in the district. For example, a property assessed at $40,000, an average for the district, would pay $48.00 more in school taxes. The state recently announced Property Tax Relief allocations which will reduce tax bills by approximately $200.00 per approved Homestead/Farmstead which helps offset the increase.
On the income side of the budget the increase in the state’s Basic Instructional Subsidy is locked in at 2%. In reality the district will only receive an additional $107,805.00 from the state to support the district expenditures. Income from the federal area is projected to remain relatively constant for this year’s budget. Even though there are numerous mandated expenditure increases imposed upon the district the state has limited the funds to a 2% rate increase. A recent letter received from the PA State Senate stated “there is no guaranteed level of funding for school districts;” the state has also recently anticipated a $1 billion state budget deficit for the year ending June 30, 2010 which may further adversely affect anticipated state allocations to school districts.
While funding from the federal and state governments will be limited, the school district will still be forced to continue to finance those mandated programs. Of significant importance are the projected mandated increases being imposed on the district in the next five year period. Reviewed by the Board was a five-year budget impact analysis prepared by district business manager, James Mirabelli. These data project that the school district deficit in expenditures to income will reach over $4,000,000.00 if not addressed in this year’s financial deliberations; the school districts’ undesignated fund balance will be completely depleted by the end of the 2011.
The goal of the administration is to provide the most effective academic, extra-curricular, and co-curricular activities for the overall student welfare. The Board deliberates on the budget to provide the most efficient way to provide the most effective program. Basically, the main focus is to maintain the vision and the goals as represented in the district’s Strategic Plan in the most effective manner at a cost that the taxpayers can afford. The school district has been successful in maintaining acceptable assessments in the PSSA’s and in meeting Annual Yearly Progress via the federal and state standards mandated as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation of 2001.
Boards have a say in decisions about programs, teacher and support staff contracts, administrative contracts, equipment, supplies, and building projects. Each annual budget contains certain fixed costs as retirement contributions, social security contributions, wage increases, health care expenses, dental care expenses, utilities, and building maintenance. When pulling together a final budget proposal many of the costs are out of the control of the local Board, however, heavily influence the bottom line.
For the current budget health care costs, contracted teacher and support staff salary increases, and a state imposed increase in the school district’s contribution to the state’s pension fund are among the major expenditure increases. Notification was received from Harrisburg that the rate for the state’s pension fund (PSERS) will nearly double from 4.78% to 8.22% for the 2010-2011 budget. The districts’ increased contribution to the PSERS amounts to a $285,722.00 budget expenditure.
Within the spending allocation for 2010-2011 the district plans to replace the roof on the elementary school and to refurbish the track and the soccer field. Board action was taken on February 22, 2010 to award the low qualified bid of $1,173,940.00 for the elementary roof replacement and on May 10, 2010 to award the low qualified bid of $722,043.35 for the track and soccer field renovation. Both of these expenditures come from the district’s Capital Reserve Fund, which had accumulated over the past two or more decades for these types of major capital projects. Funds transferred into the Capital Reserve Fund cannot be transferred back into the General Fund budget. These funds are being utilized for their intended purpose.
A special public budget meeting was scheduled for Monday, May 17. The purposes of this special meeting were to review the five-year budget plan, the declining enrollment data, the curtailment of program proposals, extra and co-curricular program reduction considerations, and numerous other possible areas for expenditure reductions being considered. The Board was interested in securing public input and opinions for the numerous items under consideration for reduction, curtailment, and elimination. A survey may be accessed on the school district web site to obtain additional public input.
Dr. Andrew Chichura, Superintendent, stated that the district needs to look at the long-term financial picture as recently projected by the business manager. He added that a long term vision for the efficiency and the effectiveness of the educational program must be provided.
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