'Groundhog Day' Budget Facing Easton Schools
After a tough 2012, Easton Area School Board facing deficits this year, and next year.
For the past few years, budget season in the Easton Area School District has meant the threat of cuts to staff and programs.
And that's the case again this year, where the district could trim 18 positions either through attrition or staff cuts.
“It’s March on the calendar, but I’d say the theme of this is Groundhog Day," board member Robert Moskaitis said at Tuesday night's board meeting.
He was referring not to the holiday, but to the 20-year-old Bill Murray comedy about a weatherman repeating the same day over and over again. Easton, he said, seems to be stuck in the same sort of cycle: a $4.2 million deficit this year, another one in 2014.
But this year's deficit could shrink by $3.1 million due to cuts to programs and staff suggested by Chief Operation Officer Michael Simonetta, which include:
- $1.8 million from cutting 18 administrative and professional support positions, which haven't yet been identified.
- $155,000 from cuts to the extra pay for extra duty/late bus run programs.
- $600,000 from the sale of the old Cottingham School, and an unexpected bump in state aid.
Simonetta said he will also meet Wednesday with the director of the Easton Area Public Library to talk about cuts to its funding.
Board member Pat Vulcano Jr. asked him to go easy.
"They're not lavished with money," he said.
Neither are a lot of residents, say other board members, who didn't seem in a hurry to embrace the 2.1 percent tax increase that would be needed to fill the remaining $1.1 million budget gap.
"This budget situation remains grim," said Moskaitis. "I wouldn’t presume you’re going to have every board member approve a 2.1 percent increase."
Under a 2.1 percent increase, the owner of a property with an assessed value of $50,000 would pay $68 more a year in school taxes.
The board could approve a smaller increase, but that would mean more cuts to district expenses.
Jena Brodhead, who leads the teachers union, said she was glad the district wasn't planning on "decimating" any programs, and asked the board for transparency as it moves forward.
She added that the damage from previous cuts is still evident at district schools.
"We're not doing more with less, we're doing less with less," Brodhead told the board.
Last year, the district cut 135 jobs. A deal between teachers and the district in 2011 avoided the same outcome.