The Tunkhannock Area School Board last Thursday unanimously approved a $49.6 million budget for 2020-21 with no tax increase.

The vote was 8-0, with Rob Parry absent.

TA chief operating officer Shane Powers said there would be around a $1,585,171 deficit which would be drawn from what is estimated to be a $4 million fund balance carried forward.

She noted budgetary funds would include the settlement of the elementary school sales which had taken place earlier in the day.

Board treasurer John Burke thanked the administration “for making the tough decisions” that got the discussion where it was Thursday.

“We’re hoping to operate somewhere close to normal,” he said, acknowledging it would take a while to get there.

A conversation got started to consider a budget with a one mill increase, but was quickly struck down.

“The public can’t afford a tax increase this year,” board member Bill Prebola said, and the sentiment was echoed by Burke.

“I totally agree this is not the time to pay more taxes,” he said.

President Phil Farr said he was grateful “We can do this without making major cuts to programs.”

Prebola said he personally wanted to thank the board “for not being as dysfunctional as some other districts in the region. I think it’s refreshing that we can all work together because it has not always been that way.”

Powers acknowledged that a bond issue of $5 million which had been initially discussed before the COVID-19 pandemic began, was part of the budgetary process for capital improvement projects only, and she expected at least one of the school roofs would be replaced this summer.

Superintendent Heather McPherson announced that graduation for seniors would take place on June 19, with Principal Todd Bosscher noting some logistics on the district’s website.

The commencement exercises would be divided into three groups of 56 each, with separate exercises in the football stadium, at 10 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. with a break between times providing an opportunity for cleaning.

McPherson said each ceremony would be live streamed, and each graduate would be limited to three tickets each.

“We understand that three won’t be a lot,” she said. Masks will be required, but graduates may take theirs off long enough for a picture with their diploma. She also noted there would be no contact except between family members.

Board member Holly Arnold thanked the administration “for giving us as much of a tradition graduation as possible.”

In the public comment period, resident George Yuhas disagreed with some of the restrictions.

Prebola said, “I know you’re frustrated; we’re all frustrated. But we have to do this in as safe a manner as possible. This is still a fluid situation, and we don’t want anyone put at risk.”

In other business, the board accepted a resolution to approve the retirement of high school cafeteria worker Nancy Daubert, effective Aug. 5.

There were brief discussions of buildings & grounds, and extracurricular committee meetings. Both will meet again on June 23 at 7 p.m. to discuss some parameters for what opening the district up for athletic competition in the fall might look like, particularly given the governor’s guidelines released the previous day.

The combined committee meeting is set to be in person at the Tunkhannock Area High School auditorium with social distancing and mask protocols in place.

The board will next meet in full on June 25, and the meeting could possibly be in person, but that has not yet been established.

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