This year, voters in the Easton Area School District could help determine the fate of the district's budget.
The school board is considering creating a ballot referendum that would allow voters to decide whether the district can raise taxes beyond a state-mandated 2.1 percent cap.
It's a step the district has never taken, and one that it needs further legal advice on. But some board members think it's worth exploring.
“It may be a good idea to ask the people what they want," board member Frank Pintabone said at Tuesday night's finance committee meeting.
The board has two other options, district Chief Operating Officer Michael Simonetta said: pass a resolution pledging to keep the budget at or below the 2.1 percent cap, or apply for state exceptions that would allow the district to go beyond 2.1 percent.
Those exceptions can only be for the cost of pensions, construction or special education. Simonetta said it's not something the district has done in the last five years, if ever.
Board members will decide which path to take at their Jan. 29 meeting.
The district is looking at a $4 million budget gap next year, even with the projected 2.1 percent tax increase and an infusion of $500,000 from its savings.
That means the owner of a property assessed at $60,000 -- the district average -- would pay $68 more next school year in taxes.
The referendum could create an even larger tax increase -- 7.5 percent -- something board member Pat Vulcano said he didn't think voters would approve at the May 21 primary election.
And even then, board member Robert Moskaitis said, an increase of that size "does nothing to improve the quality of education in this district."
"The only thing it does is keeps us even," Vulcano said. "It’s like inflation. If inflation goes up 2 percent, and you get a 2 percent raise, did you get a raise?"
The board has until June 30 to adopt a final budget, but is expected to approve a preliminary budget much sooner. Last year, the district cut 169 jobs in an effort to balance its budget.