Last updated: May 28. 2014 11:07PM - 2681 Views
By Janine Ungvarsky Times Leader Correspondent

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EXETER — The proposed final 2014-15 budget for the Wyoming Area School District includes the maximum tax hike allowed by the state index, but so much remains uncertain that the school’s business manager says the school is still only half way through a process that began at the beginning of the year and will end by June 30.

Business Manager Tom Melone presented a brief rundown of three possible scenarios for the final $30.6 million budget, which must be adopted by the end of next month. The option approved on Tuesday calls for a tax hike of 2.9 percent and a shortfall of about $129,000.

The district does project a fund balance of just over $4.8 million for the beginning of the 2014-15 year, with an additional $1.8 million in possible savings from funds budgeted in 2013-14 and not yet spent.

But noting that the process is only about half-way finished, Melone said a number of things, including state funding and the budgets for the West Side Career and Technology Center and the Luzerne Intermediate Unit have not yet been determined and will have to be factored in before a final budget is reached.

If the final budget passed in June maintains the tax hike proposed in the tentative budget passed Tuesday, millage would increase from 13.8522 to 14.3018 for property owners in Luzerne County.

A mill is $1 tax on every thousand dollars of assessed property value, so a home assessed at $150,000 would see taxes increase by $67.44 per year, according to information provided by Melone.

While there was little discussion on the budget, some board members had more to say about the appointment of Christine Rosenkrans as director of curriculum and instruction effective July 1.

First, board member John Bolin asked to amend the motion to appoint Rosenkrans to reflect the name of another candidate, but that motion failed by a 2-5-2 vote, with Gerald Stofko joining Bolin in voting for the motion to amend and Mary Louise Degnan and John Marianacci abstaining.

Then, the board voted on the original motion to appoint Rosenkrans, and Bolin, Marianacci and Stofko voted no. Stofko said he wanted to explain his “no” vote to the public but was stopped by Solicitor Jarrett J. Ferentino, who called an immediate executive session in the hallway that he said was to discuss what could and could not be said about a personnel matter in the public meeting.

When the board returned in about two minutes, Stofko said that he voted no because he was part of the interview process and thought the recommended candidate was not qualified.

This prompted point of clarification from board member Carl Yorina, who said that while board members take part in the interview process, their votes only count in the case of a tie from the staff and administrators conducting the interviews.

In a follow-up comment, board President Estelle Campenni said the board is using a process during the interviewing of all candidates for hire in the district that involves tallying points and then averaging them “to make the process as objective as possible.”

But when Exeter Park resident Joe McCabe questioned why a different process was followed during the recent superintendent hiring, Campenni said the board doesn’t have a set policy for hiring.

“We don’t have a policy, we have a procedure,” she said. “This is the process we chose to follow this time to find the most highly qualified person.”

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