With a tax increase of nearly three-quarters of a mill, Moon Area school directors have given the green light to hiring eight teachers and implementing a technology initiative that will provide laptop computers for use by all high school students.
Board members voted 7-1 to increase taxes by 0.7294 mills with the adoption of a $68.574 million operating budget Monday. Jerry Testa voted no. Jeffrey Bussard was absent.
Crescent and Moon property owners with a median-priced home valued at $155,000 can expect to pay an additional $113.06 annually in taxes. The new millage rate is 18.8461.
“It’s a tough decision always,” said Laura Schisler. “We have beautiful things to pay for.”
Mr. Testa calls the use of $2.1 million in general fund balance to close budgetary gaps and increases in district contributions to the Public School Employees Retirement System by $750,000 scary. After budgetary transfers, the district will be left with $5.27 million as a fund balance.
“Spending down your savings is not a good path to be on,” said Mrs. Schisler.
Worried about being on a “troubling path” toward “bankruptcy,” Mr. Testa asked administrators to work on a “cost containment plan” for the district.
“Do I have a plan that is going to stop the bleeding tomorrow? No,” said superintendent Curt Baker. “... We’re in the yellow zone, not in the red, but not in the green either.”
Local PSERS contributions are expected to increase by an additional $1.5 million next year and to keep rising, according to Scott LaRue.
Michael Hauser said the state needs to step up and take more responsibility for PSERS. Others agreed.
Pennsylvania has held constant or reduced contributions toward the retirement fund since the late 1990s, causing local districts to make up the difference, said Mr. Baker.
The tax increase will also help cover updates to what Mr. Baker refers to as an “antiquated” computer system and for the hiring of eight new teachers. The “tech refresh” program will start with an initial purchase of approximately 1,300 laptop units, which will be made in conjunction with an upgrade to Wi-Fi access in the high school.
Future plans call for an additional 300 units to be purchased annually and provided to incoming ninth-graders.
Eventually, these units will be refurbished and used to create mobile laptop carts for the elementary level. By 2018-19, high school seniors may be allowed to exit the school system with their laptop.
Mr. Baker said the district has 212 machines that are less than 3 years old.
“We have done everything we can with these outdated machines,” said Brian Campbell, director of technology. “It took 45 minutes at a time to get to a desktop [screen].”
The four high school and four elementary teachers will be hired because of an expected increase in enrollment; with two being assigned to Bon Meade and two to J.H. Brooks elementaries. Cost for these additions is estimated at $641,184.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.