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Some JS residents may see lower real estate taxes

JERSEY SHORE — In a turnaround from their original preliminary budget, the Jersey Shore Area School Board approved a proposed budget with a tax rate which is 25 percent of the index instead of the 50 percent voted on earlier this month.

What this means for residents of the district is that their taxes will increase less than anticipated and actually for property owners who qualify under the Homestead/Farmstead Act, taxes will go down.

Without the Homestead/Farmstead, Clinton County real estate taxes would increase $30.98 and Lycoming would increase $18.50. Properties that qualify for the Homestead/Farmstead in Clinton County their real estate taxes would decrease $36.22 and in Lycoming County, $48.78.

These are the district’s preliminary calculations pending any updates from the county/state, according to Dr. Brian Ulmer, district superintendent.

Voting in favor of the proposed budget with the change in the tax rate were: Michael Allen, Kayla Calhoon, Patrice Doebler, Wayne Kinley, Nancy Petrosky, Michelle Stemler and Mary Thomas. Voting no were Angela Grant and Jessie Edwards.

The vote on the decrease in the tax rate this week followed comments from board members questioning the fairness of raising taxes at all on the public while not dealing with why expenses are increasing.

“You can’t continue to burden taxpayers,” said board member Wayne Kinley who pointed out that 70 percent of the budget is from personnel costs.

Kinley questioned the need to hire more teachers with enrollment in the district decreasing. He cited a grade at Salladasburg Elementary that as of this time will have 18 students with two teachers. The average class size permitted in the district is 17-25 students.

“Because of three separate elementary schools, the district is unable to maximize the number of students,” Kinley said.

“I think the board has to recognize that you are continuing to increase our personnel budget, big time. For 2021-22 we just added two elementary teachers and we’re looking at three more for 2022-23. We can’t afford to not do something to save personnel costs,” Kinley said.

“We’ve got to find ways to cut costs. I’m telling you if we don’t do some sort of consolidation or restructuring it’s just going to keep getting worse,”” he added.

Board member Michelle Stemler cautioned that increasing taxes to cover spending is “not sustainable.”

“We don’t have a line of revenue that continually comes in to sustain what it is that we’re actually spending from year to year moving forward,” Stemler said, stating that she agrees with Kinley about the personnel costs.

“When it comes to this increase, knowing that we in essence have a $2.8 million reserve that we might possibly have to spend, my thinking on that is simply this. It’s like a savings account that you and I would personally own and what we’re doing is we don’t want to spend any money from our savings account so instead of spending it we’re asking the taxpayers to go ahead and fund that bill so that we don’t have to spend that money,” Stemler said.

“And that’s just wrong because in the future if we end up with any kind of surplus, that money never gets returned to them. That’s your money. That’s my money. That’s their money,” she added.

She warned that by increasing the millage, it sets a new baseline which could be added to each year. With millage for Lycoming County at 18.25 and Clinton County at 13.66, Stemler said that is not that far from 19 mills.

“Our biggest problem here in Jersey Shore is trying to help our tax base. There are no businesses that are moving here that’s going to help to compensate for that and yet we’re making these decisions, asking for the money and yet we’re not being fiscally responsible to curb what it is or what to spend,” she said.

Stemler asserted that because of the rise in personnel costs, other programs suffer because there are no funds to expand them.

“We keep spending and hiring and not really looking at the solution to the problem,” she stated.

She asked the board to consider some ‘really tough but very logical solutions to the future on how we’re going to spend our money”

“It’s not just our money. It’s our community’s money and I think that’s the part we need to make sure that we understand on whose money this actually is when we go to spend it,” she added.

At the end of the discussion, Board President Mary Thomas summed it up by saying “we’re not going to solve that problem tonight.”

“This is a discussion we have to have. It’s a discussion that has to happen in the Capital Projects committee. It’s a discussion that can continue to happen. We’ve had these discussions over the past number of years,” Thomas said.

During the public comment portion at the end of the meeting, one district resident addressed the issue of keeping a school open with enrollment down.

“This board really needs to look at the number of students attending our schools and dollar for dollar are we getting our best bang for the buck,” he said.

In other business:

— The board approved the following appointments for game staff for the athletic department for 2021-22 track season: Beth Keller, Terri Cummings, Crock Herman and Collin Glorioso. Reed Mellinger resigned from game staff, effective June 3. Jon Boob was approved as volunteer basketball coach, effective May 24.

— The board accepted a letter of retirement from Scott Krupa, Avis Elementary Head Custodian with 47.5 years of service, effective July 6, 2022.

— Two teachers were appointed effective Aug. 16. They are: Laura Eck, Special Education at Jersey Shore Area High School, at a salary of $65,214 and Carole Christine Smith, Elementary Music teacher position at all elementary buildings, at a salary of $53,467.

Under miscellaneous business the board approved:

— The appointment of Nancy Petrosky and Patrice Doebler as the voting delegates and attendees of the 2022 PSBA Delegate Assembly.

— A contract renewal between the district and BLaST IU 17 for DaRTS software.

— A contract between the district and UPMC Williamsport d/b/a UPMC Pediatric Rehabilitation for physical therapy services July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.

— The administration to place several computer monitors for sale on Municibid.com. If no bids are received items will be disposed of.

— The donation of a tree from the Jersey Shore Area Elementary BARK Program, for the Butterfly Garden, in memory of a Jersey Shore Area Elementary employee’s grandson.

— The renewal of All Access Package with PSBA for Standard Membership, Policy Maintenance and training, for 2022-2023.

— The sale of the following items, via Municibid online auction, for the amount listed and to whom the bid is awarded: One skid of 30 desktop Computers – $30.00 to Kehinde Akintoye; one skid of 30 desktop Computers — $63.00 to Muhammad Chaudhry.

The next board meeting will be at 7 p.m., June 13 at the district board room, 175 A&P Drive.

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