Elk Lake School Board approved a preliminary 2019-20 budget of $21.45 million on Thursday, which will see taxes increase, should a final budget be adopted in its current form.
Property taxes will rise 3.1 percent for those in the Wyoming County portion of the school district, and 1.6 percent for those who own property in Susquehanna County.
The millage rate for Wyoming County jumps from the present 55.41 to 57.12, and for Susquehanna County from 45.7135 to 46.44.
A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 of a property’s valuation.
Superintendent Kenneth Cuomo said the preliminary budget is $611,140.96 over last year’s budget.
“To put everything on the table, there is a revenue shortfall for this budget of $824,091,” Cuomo said at Thursday’s school board meeting. “The millage, regardless of what happens between now and the final budget, will be set for Susquehanna County at 46.44 and Wyoming County at 57.12.”
Last year, the board was unable to contribute to the medical fund.
However, Cuomo said, this budget allots $442,808 towards the medical fund and an additional $22,740 towards the dental fund.
“If this stays as what’s in the budget, we would be fully funding our medical and working towards that with dental,” he said.
The preliminary budget also totals $673,147 towards cyber school education to cover the estimated increase of $91,647 in cyber tuition.
“In the past two months, I think we’ve had seven students move into our district, all cyber students,” he said. “We are now footing their bill.”
There’s a “significant increase” in out-of-district placements, Cuomo said, totalling around $313,000.
“When you take the medical fund increase, the cyber increase and the out-of-school district increase, it more than covers the total shortfall alone,” he said.
The budget includes another kindergarten teacher and a junior high special education teacher, adding $160,000 to the budget.
Over the next month, the board will be at work figuring out the revenue shortfall, as well as items that haven’t been included in the budget yet.
“It’s not a final budget and we’ll be having to add things and also remove some stuff,” said Cuomo.
The superintendent also noted that areas such as cyber tuition are out of the board’s hands, as the state requires school districts to cover these costs for students living in the district who choose cyber education.
Director of Special Education Pamela Staats said the special education department will undergo restructuring because there are many open positions.
Elk Lake has received numerous applications, many of which are candidates dually certified in special education and general education.
“I’m excited about how we can restructure and look at it because I don’t think in all my years here I’ve had this many openings,” she said.
The board acknowledged the retirements of Marla Bisner (Aug. 30) and Cis Hibbard (June 30), as well as the resignation of Tammy Conrad (May 17).
The board also approved the 2019 graduation list, pending the completion of academic requirements.
Board members approved a homebound student request and signed a two-year agreement with The Meadows, which can provide placement for students with special needs if necessary.
The athletic eligibility procedure for Elk Lake is under review and the board will take action on it next month.
The board approved one 2018-19 substitute addition and members voted to post summer school positions in math, ELA and social studies, as well as a first shift maintenance position.
The Elk Lake board granted permission for site development permits for the Susquehanna Career and Technology Center’s new commercial driver’s license program.
The board assigned Harold Bender as the board treasurer and vice president Arden Tewksbury as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association voting delegate.
In the SCCTC portion of the meeting, the board approved a CDL testing agreement with PennDOT for the new program.
SCCTC Executive Director Alice Davis said the center received a visit from the Northern Tier Regional Planning Committee, which reviewed the facility.
“They were impressed with a lot of things,” she said.
The board also gave permission for the SCCTC to apply for a Harbor Freight grant for up to $100,000 and approved a 60-day contract with Donna Schwartz of Schwartz Consulting.
SCCTC graduation is Thursday, June 6, and Elk Lake’s high school commencement is Saturday, June 8.
The Elk Lake School Board is scheduled to meet again on June 20 at 7 p.m., with the SCCTC meeting scheduled for June 5.