Last updated: January 16. 2014 11:26PM - 1502 Views
TOM HUNTINGTON Times Leader Correspondent



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UNION TWP.— A mid-term financial report presented to the Northwest Area School Board on Wednesday night doesn’t bode well for taxpayers of the school district.


Albert Melone Jr., district financial advisor, said a proposed preliminary budget for 2014-15 currently contains a deficit of $816,397 and a projected real estate tax increase of 4 to 5 percent.


Melone emphasized that this is a preliminary budget that in the months ahead can be adjusted according to legislative decisions made in Harrisburg and cost reductions effected by the board, but overall Melone said the school board faces a difficult task and needs “the continued support of the community to get through a tough time.”


Melone outlined revenue resources estimated at $18,082,958 while expenditures are projected to be $18,899,365.


School director Albert Gordon stressed for a second time that “there is tremendous pressure on school boards to fund pensions.” At the December meeting, Gordon said incremental increases for personnel benefits are projected to be proportionately larger than at any time he has been on the board.


Under the plan submitted by Melone, personnel services benefits are to increase to $4,888,072 in 2014-15, up $413,058 from 2013-14.


Supertendent Ronald Grevera lamented the loss of basic education subsidies from the state. “This school board has constantly had to cut costs because of losses in state funding,” he said.


The board has until June 30 to enact and forward to the state Department of Education a balanced budget.


“That means in the months ahead, everyone is going to have get on the same team in order to keep our tax base in line,” Melone said.


The board’s agenda included voting on coaching assignments for the 2014-15 term, one of which included Carl Majer, head football coach. Although several members of the board tried to open the football post at a previous meeting, Majer was retained on a 6-2 vote Wednesday.


Three other coaches —Ashley Lawson, girls’ field hockey; Brian Barchak, cross country, and Jaynae Colarico, junior high girls’ softball— were appointed unanimously.


In other matters, Grevera also commended the professional teaching staff after an announcement that Northwest had finished second among Luzerne County schools in school performance profile evaluations completely recently.


Grevera called Northwest’s high school profile rating of 83 percent “a reflection of most impressive academic growth.”


On a negative note, Grevcra told the board that cracks in the exterior block walls of the district’s fieldhouse have created some safety issues that are being investigated by a structural engineer from the Quad3 Group of Wilkes-Barre.


Grevera said preliminary investigation has revealed some water drainage problems. Grevera said the problems are viewed as correctable and plans will be formulated to make the fieldhouse accessible to all student athletes.


School director Alton Farver, chairman of the safety committee, however, said he views the problems as more serious than indicated, and asked he be absolved from overseeing matters pertaining to the fieldhouse.


The board also acted to hire Karen Traver as a mathematics teacher and Jessica Smethers as a biology teacher.

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