Abington Heights School Board approves 2016-17 budget with tax increase

By Robert Tomkavage - rtomkavage@timesleader.com

CLARKS SUMMIT — Members of the Abington Heights School Board voted, 7-1, to approve a final general fund budget with a 2.4 percent tax increase for the 2016-17 school year during a meeting Wednesday, June 22.

Jeanne Cadman, Warren Acker, Michael Fleming, Philip Robson, Vice President Louise Brzuchalski, Secretary Michele Tierney and President Cathy Hardaway voted yes and Treasurer Gregory Madensky voted no. Michele Pusateri was absent from the meeting.

According to Business Manager James Mirabelli, the hike will generate approximately $600,000 in additional revenue for the district and will cost an average homeowner with an assessment of $20,000 an additional $56, for a bill of $2,278.

The median assessed value for homesteads in the Abington Heights School District is $20,000.

The district’s tax rate rose from 117.35 to 120.16 mills. A mill is a $1 tax per each $1,000 of assessed value.

With total revenues of $45.77 million and total expenses of $47.92 million, the school district is facing a $2.1 million deficit.

“We always work to cut costs, but we do expect to have a deficit at the end of the year,” Abington Heights Superintendent of Schools Michael Mahon said.

According to Mahon, the district raised taxes two other times in the past 12 years.

Members of the board approved the resignation of high school German teacher Sarah Szczepanski. The language may be dropped from the curriculum if the district is unable to find a replacement.

“We posted this position and are actively looking for a replacement, however our experience tells us it’s hard to find German teachers,” Mahon said. “We have set an arbitrary date of July 22. If we are unsuccessful in finding a teacher by that date, we’re going to begin the process of eliminating the German program.”

Members of the board voted, 8-0, to approve a transportation contract with Rohrer Bus Service of Duncannon, Degilio Services, Inc. of Clarks Summit, Buranich Enterprises Inc., of Clarks Summit, and Buranich, of Clarks Summit.

“All runs will be calculated and compensated at the state formula,” Mahon said. “That was our objective.”

According to Mahon, running the routes at the state formula will save the district approximately $90,000.

“Our routes had to be redesigned and we eliminated some bus routes, but all the bus stops are the same,” Mahon said. “It’s a good thing and a sustaining thing. I think this has been a great success.”

Members of the board first began discussing potential changes to bus routes in October 2015 in an effort to decrease expenditures and increase efficiency.

The contract is for one year, but it is renewable.

Members of the board approved the district’s Food Service Management renewal contract with Metz Culinary Management, 8-0. The district made the switch to Metz last April.

“There has been an increased efficiency in terms of dollars to the district,” Mahon said.

There will be a 10-cent raise in the district’s lunch prices for the upcoming school year to meet federal government regulations.

Several parents approached the board with the request of adding a boys lacrosse team at the high school.

According to Mike Naholnik of Newton Township, the team’s budget would be self-funded. Transportation, officials, uniforms and equipment would be included.

“I, personally, think we should support the kids in doing whatever activity they want to do to keep them active,” Cadman said.

Members of the board approved several other personnel items:

• The appointments of high school assistant principal Mark Lemoncelli, Director of Special Education Elizabeth Rosar-Shivock, elementary teacher Carrie Heron, long-term substitute school counselor Brittany Butler, English/social studies teacher Jennifer Tarr, math teachers Frank Dyska and Jacqueline Brown, long-term substitute science teacher Frank Berardelli, long term substitute high school math teacher Tamara Williams, high school math teacher Christopher Vilello, elementary teachers Tiffany Moore and Samantha Krut and K-6 teacher Ashley Kane.

• Leaves of absence for Newton Ransom Elementary teacher Lynn Keeler and South Abington Elementary teacher Emily Saslo.

• The resignations of Waverly Elementary School teacher Sara Kasper and custodian William Peckins.


By Robert Tomkavage


Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.

Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.