The Elizabethtown Area School District could lose $1.5 million in state funds for this year’s district budget if the state Legislature doesn’t resolve its budget impasse.
At the school board workshop meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12, business manager George Longridge said that if the Legislature doesn’t come up with a revenue plan for the budget expenditures passed earlier this summer, there could be cuts in four subsidies the district receives from the state: basic education, special education, transportation and social security. Those subsidies total 12.8 million, Longridge said.
“There will be a significant impact to Elizabethtown,” Longridge said, noting that it will affect academic and extracurricular programs
Superintendent Michele Balliet said it was her understanding that if a state funding plan isn’t in place by Friday, Sept. 15, then the subsidy reductions would take place.
“The state’s not upholding their end of the bargain,” board member Craig Hummer said. Board member Caroline Lalvani asked if local state representatives have reached out to the district. Balliet and Longridge said they weren’t aware of any outreach.
Elizabethtown resident Robert Yahara spoke to offer support to the school board in light of the dramatically increasing retirement contribution costs that districts are required by the state to pay, resulting in higher local school taxes.
“The management on the state level really isn’t coming through to help you to better educate the students,” Yahara said. “You’re the scapegoats. They’re making it look like, ‘Hey, it’s the school board that’s doing it to us.’ No it’s not. It’s the state.”
Another citizen did not have such supportive words for the board. Rick Berault said he and his wife started the Friends of the Community organization in 1994, and since then have provided coats, hats, shoes, food and Christmas gifts to Elizabethtown students in need.
After asking reporters not to report on his remarks, he lamented the fact that the district no longer provides names of students in need because of confidentiality rules.
“It couldn’t have been more confidential the way my wife did it. Nobody knew who those kids were,” he said.
Berault, who retired from PPL, also said that several years ago, he provided lights for a hockey field, and he was upset when they were taken down. He said his organization would no longer help the district.
After the meeting, Balliet said she had spoken to Berault previously and offered to set up a meeting with the administration and district partners to see how the organization and district could work together.
Longridge also updated the board on a sinkhole discovered near Rheems Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 7. The sinkhole was repaired, and the school was deemed safe. However, a geotechnical analysis will be done to check for other potential sinkholes.
Richard Schwarzman, assistant to the superintendent, reported on the development of Suite 360, a web-based tool that could be used on mobile devices by both students and parents to aid in character development and social and emotional learning. The program is to be launched at the end of October.
Switching to action mode, the board approved the hiring of Adam Bergens as the new building and grounds director. It also named Michael Pericci as the assistant principal at the middle school, after serving as middle school dean of students.
The board also heard about the current marching band season from student drum majors Jared Wolf, Carissa Warren and Claire Fritz.