Last updated: May 19. 2014 11:38PM - 1922 Views
By - smocarsky@civitasmedia.com



Hazleton Area School Board President Robert Wallace, right, talks with parents about new school boundary maps Monday after a town hall meeting at the administration building in Hazle Township.
Steve Mocarsky | The Times Leader
Hazleton Area School Board President Robert Wallace, right, talks with parents about new school boundary maps Monday after a town hall meeting at the administration building in Hazle Township.
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Find links to maps of the new boundaries for Hazleton Area schools below, after the sidebar on Budget Issues.


BUDGET ISSUES


Hazleton Area School Board members who attended a budget meeting Monday learned that the district is expected to save at least $1.4 million in health insurance costs over the amount previously budgeted for next school year.


Business Manager Tony Ryba said Sara Picard, the health care consultant with Millennium Administrators that the school board hired in September, has been negotiating with area pharmacies and health plan administrators to lower costs.


Even with those savings, the district still will be facing a $7.6 million deficit comparing total expenditures of $134.2 million to total revenue of $126.6 million based on the projected state and federal funding and current property tax millage rates.


Much of the deficit is due to the planned hire of about 50 teachers to address school district overcrowding and an increase in English as a Second Language students.


Ryba presented several scenarios for property taxes for the board to consider:


• If the district budgeted expenditures for next school year based on last year's revenue of $36.2 million, property taxes could be cut by 0.104 mills in Luzerne County, by 1.872 mills in Schuylkill County and by 0.781 mills in Carbon County.


• If millage was kept the same at 9.195 mills in Luzerne County, Carbon and Schuylkill counties would still see small tax decreases because of a state taxation formula, and the district would still see an additional $485,000 in property tax revenue over the 2013-14 school year.


• Increasing school property taxes in Luzerne County by about 1.7 percent would increase revenue by $1,235,000 over this school year's. Carbon County's millage would remain the same and Schuylkill County's would increase 0.506 mills.


• Increasing Luzerne County's millage by the indexed amount (the largest increase allowed by state law without referendum approval) from 9.195 mills to 9.542 mills would increase revenue by $2,118,755. Carbon County's millage would increase from 27.778 mills to 28.337 mills, and Schuylkill County's would decrease from 30.573 mills to 30.125 mills.



HAZLE TWP. — With a new school opening this fall in the Hazleton Area School District, officials on Monday revealed new boundary lines that determine which schools students will attend based on where they live.
 
Superintendent Francis X. Antonelli told parents who attended a town hall meeting at the district administration building that several schools, especially Heights Terrace, Arthur Street, Hazleton and West Hazleton elementary-middle schools were facing “significant issues of overcrowding” and large class sizes that are negatively affecting student achievement.
 
To address overcrowding, the district in 2012 bought the former Bishop Hafey High School, located across 22nd Street from Hazleton Area High School, and the surrounding 14 acres from the Diocese of Scranton for $5.5 million.
 
The district floated a $10 million bond for the purchase and renovation of the former Bishop Hafey building, and an expansion and renovation at the Ninth Grade Center, located adjacent to the high school.
 
The former Bishop Hafey building will be the Maple Manor Elementary-Middle School, housing third- through eighth-grade students. The Ninth Grade Center will become the Hazle Township Early Learning Center and will house kindergarten through second-grade students as well as the pre-kindergarten and early-intervention programs.
 
Floating another $10 million bond, the district also in 2012 purchased a shell building in the CAN DO Corporate Center in Butler Township on 11 acres for $4.4 million and began construction to turn it into a STEM school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math for high school students.
 
The first phase of renovation at the Maple Manor school will be complete by the end of the summer, and the school will house approximately 470 students in grades three through six in the 2014-15 school year, George Donadi, director of elementary/middle schools, said.
 
With the additional space provided by the Maple Manor school, the STEM school and the Early Learning Center conversion and expansion, middle school class sizes should be reduced from 30-35 students to 25-28 students, Antonelli said.
 
Donadi detailed the boundary lines for students who will attend the Arthur Street, Hazleton, Heights Terrace and West Hazleton elementary-middle schools. He said boundaries for outlying schools — Drums, Freeland, McAdoo/Kelayres and Valley elementary-middle schools — would remain the same.
 
Addressing a question from a parent, students who attend a school outside a boundary because of school choice would remain at that school, but any new student would have to attend the school in the new boundary, Antonelli said.
 
Students who were moved to a school out of their current boundary because of overcrowding will return to the school in their new boundary.
 
Donadi said he hopes to have letters out to parents informing them of the school that their child will attend in the fall sent out before the end of the current school year.
 
The school board is expected to vote on the new boundary maps at Thursday's 6:15 p.m. meeting in the administration building.

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