Scranton School Board Approved Proposed Budget With $7.4 Million Deficit, 7 Percent Tax Increase

November 20, 2018

SCRANTON — Despite additional funding from the state, the Scranton School Board approved a proposed budget Monday night with a $7.4 million deficit. School directors have the ability to raise taxes by as much as 7 percent, or 9 mills. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed value. A person with a home assessed at $10,000 would pay an additional $90 in taxes each year. The district, which remains on financial watch from the state, has until the end of December to pass a balanced spending plan. Directors said they plan to hold three public hearings next month, at schools across the city, to present the budget to residents and hear their concerns. Even with the maximum tax increase, the district would only raise about $3.1 million, leaving the district with a gap of more than $4 million to eliminate. Under the state Taxpayer Relief Act, the district is able to raise taxes by 4.62 mills. The state has granted an exception to the district, and will allow Scranton to raise taxes by an additional 4.41 mills. The budget includes $164.7 million in expenses and $157.2 million in revenue. The revenue includes an additional $6 million from the state for 2019, which the district is using to maintain several programs, including full-day kindergarten and services for English as a second language students. In his first meeting, Director Greg Popil suggested taking a closer look at transportation costs, projected to be $4.9 million for next year. The district should look at taking over its own transportation, instead of relying on buses from DeNaples Transportation. “We’ve got to find a better way,” he said. PFM, the district’s state-appointed financial monitor, plans to address transportation issues during an upcoming meeting. After meeting for more than four hours, directors also voted to table a motion to hire law firm Joyce, Carmody & Moran as labor counsel. Director Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said she had concerns about Larry Moran Jr.’s True Solutions Project, which donated to some sitting school directors. Director Bob Lesh, the lone vote against tabling the motion, left abruptly after the vote. Directors also voted to table a vote on appointing a special education law firm. In committee meetings prior to the special meeting, directors discussed hiring policies and school safety. Scranton Police Chief Carl Graziano said he would like to schedule regular meetings to discuss safety issues with district officials. School directors also said they would like to see community members and parents become more engaged in school security. As the board updates and creates hiring policies, directors also debated the current practice of awarding additional points during the interview process for teaching applicants who live in Scranton. The prospective teachers can receive an additional 85 out of 1,000 possible points for living in the city. Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter

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