Tom Melone, finance manager for the Wyoming Area School District, presented preliminary budget figures at a special session on Tuesday night. He was careful to point out that the final budget is far from complete. He said, May and June may differ drastically.
For now, the Wyoming Area school board has adopted a preliminary budget of $30,337,816 for 2013-2014.
The preliminary budget adopted by the board calls for a 4.42 per cent increase in millage for area residents. This increase includes both the state-allowed index and an exception for increased retirement costs.
Board members John Bolin, Deanna Farrell, John Marianacci, Frank Casarella and Gil Dominick voted for the budget. Carl Yorina, Jr., Estelle Campenni and Mary Louise Degnan voted against. Board member Elizabeth Gober-Magnan was absent from the meeting.
Melone pointed out that the budget is non-binding and that final decisions about next year's budget won't be decided until June 30. Even with the tax increase, Melone still anticipates a more than $500,000 shortfall over expenditures in 2013-2014. He also showed projections for the next three years. According to Melone, the district's more than $3 million fund reserve could shrink to $368,000 in the 2015-2016 budget. He pointed out that his projections included tax hikes.
Wyoming Area properties lie in both Luzerne and Wyoming counties. The proposed tax increase would raise the millage for Luzerne County properties from 13.5408 to 14.1458. A mill is a $1 tax on each $1,000 of assessed property value.
An average Luzerne County property in the Wyoming Area district is valued at $116,456. The owner of a property of average value would pay an additional $70 in taxes next year based on the preliminary budget.
The tax increase for district residents whose properties lie in Wyoming County would face a millage increase from the current 77.3780 to 78.8120. An average property in the district in Wyoming County is currently valued at $15,735. The average property in Wyoming County would pay an additional $22.56 in taxes per year.
Yorina followed up on an expenditure last month for tickets to a Penguins ice hockey game. Yorina believes that since the high school choir had been asked to sing the National Anthem at a Penguins game, they shouldn't have been asked to pay for tickets to get in. In his view, the request was absolutely ludicrous. Yorina made several calls in an effort to find someone who could explain that policy.
Yorina also brought up a concern about registered sex offenders in the Wilkes-Barre area. He discussed Megan's Law which allows the public to find out where registered sex offenders live and work in their area. Those living near a sexual offender must be notified.
But Yorina said that he was shocked to find out that the radius of those who must be notified was small. He gave the example of a violent sexual offender in the area. He said that the police only had to contact those who lived within 250 feet of the offender.
Yorina believes the district should provide a link to the state Megan's Law website. He asked District Solicitor Jarrett Ferentino if a link to the Megan's Law site could be placed on the school's website. Ferentino said that doing so would be acceptable.
Board member Frank Casarella announced the next date for negotiation with the teacher's union is Feb. 25 and the board has requested an option for a full-day session of negotiations.