The Elizabethtown school board approved the proposed $60.9 million budget for the 2017-18 school year, which will raise taxes by 4.75 percent, with millage increasing from 19.9 to 20.845.
Board member Ronald T. Grenko cast the only nay vote at the meeting on Tuesday, June 20. Two board members, M. Caroline Lalvani and Christopher Olnick, were absent.
The owner of a house in the Elizabethtown Area School District with the median assessed value of $138,300 will pay an additional $130.69 in school taxes.
Elizabethtown resident Robert Yahara addressed the board at the start of the meeting, saying it was odd that only two people, including him, had attended a previous meeting to express concerns about the tax increase.
Yahara also said he is framing his reaction in six words: “Don’t be demoralized over school taxation.” Rather, he said, “Take the high road. We need to educate children, and we need to try to keep the taxes balanced and think about the property rights of owners.”
He added, “I am going to serve the best I can to support a dialogue that we can be a part of to move forward with the things that are important in our community.”
Following the vote, board member Craig Hummer described the budget process as a struggle, but said, “I think we’re making our best effort to make sure that we’re finding that balance between educating students and being responsible stewards with taxpayers’ dollars.” At the May meeting, Hummer issued a challenge to cut $1 million from the next year’s budget.
The board also heard a presentation about a proposed solar panel field, to be located on district land between Route 283, Bear Creek School and the Elizabethtown Fairgrounds. Giving the presentation were Mark Gallick of the McClure Co. and Jay Franklin of NRG, which the district is consulting with on energy savings.
The two solar field designs were configured to accommodate a proposed mountain bike trail on the land. Giving preliminary figures, Gallick said the 500-kilowatt field would cost about $870,000 and yield over $2 million in savings over a 20-year period. The 750-kilowatt field would cost about $1.2 million and would save about $2.4 million. Gallick and Franklin are recommending the 500-watt field.
The board approved a notice to proceed on engineering work for the project, with a presentation on the final design and costs to be given at the board’s Aug. 8 workshop meeting. If the board votes favorably at the Aug. 15 meeting, the field could be constructed and operational by the end of the calendar year, Gallick said. The notice to proceed agrees to pay McClure $20,000 in engineering costs if the project does not go forward.
In other business, the board approved a contract with a new food service vendor, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Southwest Foodservice Excellence. Until now, the district has run a self-operated food service.
The board also approved the elimination of three part-time non-instructional positions, for “reasons of economy.” The employees were aides who worked in the high school cafeteria. Superintendent Michele Balliet clarified that these positions are not considered part of the cafeteria staff. During the June 13 discussion of the new food service vendor, she stressed that existing cafeteria staff would be maintained.
The board also voted to give Balliet a 3.75 percent salary increase based, per her contract, on an evaluation held at a June 13 executive session.
Additionally, the board recognized seven members of the district’s buildings and grounds staff with the ABCD Award — Above and Beyond the Call of Duty — for their efforts following a malfunctioning sprinkler at Bear Creek School.