'Dig Deeper' to Save Jobs, Programs, Parents Tell School Board

Easton Area School Board agrees to consider higher tax increase to stave off job and program cuts.

Easton Area High School senior Zikey Odubo speaks on behalf of his younger brother, a middle school music student.
Easton Area High School senior Zikey Odubo speaks on behalf of his younger brother, a middle school music student.
Dozens of people crowded into Tuesday night's Easton Area School Board meeting, nearly all with the same message:

Don't touch our teachers. Don't cut our programs. 

And the board reacted by backing away from a vote to lock in this year's proposed tax increase at 2.7 percent, a move which would have meant 56 job cuts at district schools.

Instead, the board will seek exceptions from the state to raise taxes beyond the state limit, which means district property owners could see as much as a 4.5 percent increase later this year.

State law doesn't allow the district to raise property taxes by higher than 2.7 percent. However, districts are allowed to seek exceptions to that rule to pay for things such as special education funding, or pension obligations.

Under that 4.5 percent increase, the owner of a property with an assessed value of $60,000 would pay $159 more next year. Under the 2.7 increase, it would have been $88 a year more.

Earlier this month, the board presented early budget figures that showed the district cutting 56 teaching jobs under the 2.7 percent tax increase.

That prompted a petition by the March Elementary PTA, which collected more than 900 signatures in the last four days.

The PTA's Marissa McFadden asked the board Tuesday to look for "a way that not only staves off the worst of these cuts, but builds a brighter future."

“We implore you that you dig deeper and look harder," McFadden said. "These cuts must not happen.”

Others were more stark in their vision for the future. Curtis Ding, a parent and husband of a furloughed teacher, said it would be "irresponsible" for the board not to raise taxes.

“Who is going to want to move to this district if we keep stripping it?" Ding said. "People worry about $88. What happens when their property values are dropping 20, 30, 40 thousand dollars a year because no one wants to live here?”

Many people came to plead on behalf of the middle school instrumental music program, which would be lost with the teacher cuts.

“I love band and it might be my last year in it," said fifth grader Scott Sweeney. “If you take it away from kids like me, you won’t have the amazing band in high school everyone is talking about. You won’t have the notes. Maybe some of us won’t remember the notes.”

It was a standing-room only meeting, with a few dozen people sitting on the floor in front of the board, and more packed into the hallways.

Board President Frank Pintabone told the audience he was pleased with the turnout. It even prompted him to resurrect his idea of holding occasional meetings at various district schools.

The board will meet against next Tuesday to take action on the proposed 4.5 percent increase.

Ronnie DelBacco January 29, 2014 at 07:16 AM
Why aren't we hearing more about administrative cuts and the ideas Mr. Rienhart suggested? Where do the school board members stand on opposing the EAEA's continued ridiculous demands for more, more, more? Mr. Pintabone should have become a property owner before deciding to try and manage a budget that affects property owners. I'm all for saving teaching jobs, but the EAEA and its irresponsible demands over the years have put us in this mess. Its time our elected officials, even those who are or were teachers and administrators, get real with the EAEA and stand them down. The tenured teachers will always vote for more money in their own pockets as opposed to saving jobs for the new and younger teachers. They do it to themselves and we have to pay the price.
JoAnn January 29, 2014 at 08:43 AM
why is it always EASTON, we don't hear of these problems in Nazareth or Bangor SD ??? I would start to consider the long term effects of that lawyer the school district has and the booby bracelet debacle that is costing the district a pretty penny Maybe, get rid of that suit and see how much money the district saves? In my opinion, that solicitor makes work for himself to bill the district so he gets paid think about it
michael williams January 29, 2014 at 09:34 AM
Mr. Delbaco Pintabone voted NO regarding going over the index, he has also been extremely vocal in asking the teachers to reopen the contract. Last night the board voted YES to begin the process of selling a building, Mr. Reinharts recommendation. What are you talking about????? Last year, Pintabone pushed for the board to raise taxes 1.7% when everyone else wanted 2.0%.. why dont you ever say anything about the other current region 2 officials, whom last night voted to go above the index. ... pintabone beat you 2 yrs ago, get over it.. keep up the great work, Frank
JoAnn January 29, 2014 at 01:42 PM
I want to know why other school districts don't have the problems Easton does ? not the officials the distract as a whole


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