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Nazareth School Board Approves 1.8 Percent Tax Hike

Last-minute changes to Nazareth Area School District's 2012-2013 budget reduce the tax hike from 1.9 percent to 1.8 percent.

Nazareth Area School District taxpayers got a sliver of good news just before the district adopted the 2012-2013 budget Monday night.

Last-minute spending cuts by the district administration reduced the property tax increase in the budget from 1.9 percent to 1.8 percent. The savings -- of about $45,000 in a $68.3 million spending plan -- came from a streamlining of administrative salaries and “a new method of securing supplies,” said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Riker.

The millage rate will increase by 0.86 mills, to 48.55 mills, rather than the 0.91 mills projected in the budget proposal .

Apart from that small savings, the budget did not change from the final proposal.

No money will be taken from the district's fund balance, and , though a total of 10 positions -- including seven teaching slots -- will be eliminated through attrition, mainly retirements.

One position will be eliminated in central administration when Riker takes over as district superintendent when Dr. Victor Lesky retires in July. Essentially, Riker will replace Lesky but no one will replace Riker.

The lone "no" vote on the budget came from Chris Miller, who was elected to the board last year on a platform of extreme fiscal prudence.

In remarks after the budget was adopted, Miller cautioned that ways must be found to reduce spending in the next few budget years, or the district could face financial calamity.

“I am concerned if this [spending] is sustainable,” Miller said, speaking during the meeting.

Even board members who voted in favor of the budget expressed concern for the future.

“I am concerned we are putting off things that are not optional,” said Chris Audenried, as several of his colleagues murmured in agreement.

In other budget-related news, the impasse between the school board and the Nazareth Area Education Association, which represents the district's teachers, continues. The teachers union has not presented a proposal regarding potential wage concessions as requested by the school board, Lesky said. Lesky has repeated that statement at several board meetings this year.

Last week, he feels it is up to the board and administration to make a formal proposal to which the union will respond.

The budget will be in effect from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.

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