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School board told tax limit for 2014-15

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Sep 24 2013 01:06:45 AM CDT
WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

Although the new school year has only just begun, officials in one Lehigh County district are already learning part of what's in store financially for next year.

The Whitehall-Coplay school board's Finance & Personnel Committee was told Monday afternoon that property taxes could be raised up to roughly $1.4 million in the 2014-15 budget without a state exception or a referendum.

The amount permitted -- $1,369,363 -- represents about 2 1/2 percent of this year's $56.9 million budget, or about .58 of a mill, said district business manager Robert V. Strauss.

If the school board would decide more revenue is necessary, the district would have to apply for an exception from the state, or put the matter to a vote in the form of a referendum.

Strauss said the amount of the allowed increase in "minimal," considering the expected rise in medical costs and pension fund payments.

However, he also said the Whitehall-Coplay district has been fortunate in its budget planning over the years, noting that there have been no layoffs for at least a decade.

A 2014-15 budget will be presented in December or January and be given tentative approval in February, with final approval expected in June, Strauss said.

Two other board committees met Monday afternoon.

The Education & Student Activities Committee was told that Pennsylvania School Performance Profile scores are on the way.

Barbara Chomik, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said the plan is for board members to have the scores by the end of the week, and that the scores be presented to the public sometime next week.

However, Chomik said the state is allowing districts to challenge scores until Thursday, their release could conceivably be delayed.

At the Operations & Transportation Committee meeting, the administration was urged to solicit proposals from private firms to upgrade security cameras at the Middle School.

Supt. John Corby said he applied to the state police last month for help with the upgrade, but had yet to hear back. "The state police came highly recommended ... and the price is right ... but this isn't something I would want to wait for for 16 or 18 months, or even a year," he said.

Board president Eileen Abruzzi said, "The cameras are imperative."

But board treasurer Arthur F. Taschler Jr. said, "The money would be better spent on deterrence," by creating a "safety zone" that would allow better control of people coming in and out of the school. "The cameras only help if they're monitored."

Abruzzi said the cameras could at least document what's going on at the school and provide evidence if a crime is committed.

Taschler agreed, saying the cameras are "the perfect witness."