WILLIAMSPORT - Thirty-five positions are eliminated under a $75.5 million budget approved by the Williamsport Area School Board for the next fiscal year.
The board also is increasing its property tax by .339 of a mill to balance the budget, approved by a 5-2 vote this week.
Faced with a multi-million dollar deficit due to decreased or flat state subsidies against rising personnel, insurance and pension costs, the board voted 6-1 to eliminate 15 teaching jobs and 20 support staff. Eight of the 45 took voluntary layoff. The layoffs are effective July 1.
"Everyone is not happy ... for the number that we furloughed, but it could have been worse," said Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Kelley.
The 15 teaching positions eliminated include three health and physical education teachers, one music, one art and three elementary teachers. Kelley said the furloughs were determined by seniority and certifications. The district worked closely with the teachers' union when informing the individuals of the district's intentions, she added.
The support staff eliminations, four of which were part-time employees, were determined by seniority and classification.
Although the board approved the furloughs, Kelley expects the number of actual eliminations to decrease as the summer goes on.
"It's already changed," Kelley said. "Letters (informing individuals of being furloughed) will go out, but things are changing daily."
Kelley said some current staff will accept other positions outside of the district, go back to school or will move, which will open spots for those who were furloughed.
In the case of a position opening, those furloughed with the most seniority and certification will be brought back.
Board President Lori Baer took time to put to rest a rumor saying the furloughs were to help pay for the construction projects at the former Roosevelt Middle School building and high school, saying they were two separate situations.
"I just want to make sure it is clear that is not the case," she said.
Board member Dale Vollman was the lone vote against the furloughs.
The budget is approximately $75,496,409. The tax increase is the maximum allowed by state law.
Business Manager Jeffrey Richards told the board that the average home market value in the district is $96,126 and the increase would raise taxes $32.59 for those homeowners.
A few board members were thankful to the district for being able to balance the budget in "tough" times.
"Budget season is always difficult," said board member David Stone. "I think (the district is) to be commended for coming in with a balanced budget."
Although board member Thomas Zimmerman wasn't present at the meeting, Richards read a statement from him saying the budget was "responsible and appropriate."