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Taxes hiked 1.5% by Bangor Area School Board

By Joe McDonald, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 24 2013 10:26:08 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 26 2013 07:12:23 AM CDT
BANGOR, Pa. -

Amid a lively debate over taxes, the Bangor Area School Board Monday night approved a $50.2 million budget that carries a 1.5 percent hike in property taxes, or about $42 for the average homeowner.

The budget, which was passed by a 6-1 vote, was the subject of a three-page prepared statement read by Toni E. Lynch, who voted against it and said the school district is on an unsustainable path. Lynch said he would vote for a budget that cut $2.5 million without harming students.

Business manager Stephen G. Wiencek and acting supt. Frank DeFelice said they did not see how that was possible.

“There’s just no way,” said Wiencek. He rejected Lynch’s assertion there was “fat” in the budget.

But it was Lynch’s suggestion that the district must live within the means of the people in the community that launched Director Frank Adlessi into a sharp exchange with Lynch, whom he called “reckless and wrong-headed.”

Adlessi said if the district were to adopt Lynch’s plan, then students who lived in poorer communities would receive inferior educations than students in more affluent areas. Lynch’s ideas on education being based on a community’s ability to pay, Adlessi said, were “vile, disgusting and awful.”

Wiencek, in a budget memo last month to the board, said the district’s budget problems “will not get any easier within the next few years and we too will be required to reduce staff in order to balance budgets.

In order to keep the tax hike down to 1.5 percent in the new budget, the district took $258,200 from its fund balance account.

Lynch said borrowing from that account was a "great way to plan for additional economic struggles and greater tax increases down the road.”

Besides calling for more belt-tightening in the district, Lynch brought up a long-debated idea to end school district funding through property taxes and replace it with other taxes, such as a sales tax. The idea has never advanced beyond the talking stage.

The only way the district can get a handle on its expenditures, Wiencek’s memo said, is by replacing as few positions as possible when staff members retire or resign.

“This is the one area of budgeting that makes the quickest impact on the overall budget and continues as enrollment, course offerings or personnel change,” the memo said.