NANTICOKE -- Of five new Greater Nanticoke Area teachers hired Thursday night, three had close family ties to board members. The board also unanimously passed the district’s final 2012-13 budget of $25.2 million that increases property taxes by almost a quarter of a mill. New elementary teacher Cara Verazin is member Ryan Verazin’s sister. Lauren Dembowski, another elementary hiree, is member Tony Prushinski’s niece. Maria Sergei, niece of board member Chester Beggs, will be a special-education teacher for the district in the fall. All board members voted on the personnel issues, except Verazin, Prushinski and Beggs abstained from voting for their family members. But Board Secretary Cindy Donlin abstained from voting on all three, saying she will never vote to employ someone who is related to a member of the board. After the meeting, Board President Jeff Kozlofski defended the hiring of board family members. He said all the interviews for new teachers hired were conducted by the three principals and the superintendent. He said the board was not involved. “(The principals) recommended them to us,” he said. Kozlofski also said the board has never considered an anti-nepotism clause comparable to the one adopted by Pittston Area. The positions were made available because of a memorandum of understanding between the school district and the GNA Education Association, which is the teachers’ collective bargaining unit. The memorandum provided for early-retirement incentives for seven senior teachers. District Business Manager Al Melone said the union helped the district balance the budget. The early retirements also allowed the district to recall three furloughed teachers. The district’s final budget for the upcoming school year will increase the tax rate to 10.1777 mills compared to last year’s 9.9295. A mill is $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed value. Melone reminded the audience this was the first tax increase for the district in many years. He said the average taxpayer will see an property tax increase of about $20. Melone also said the district has retained the homestead and farmstead exclusion reductions provided by gaming revenues. Those taxpayers who opted into this program will see a reduction of $141 in their taxes. In another matter, the board appointed John Gorham to be the high school principal at a salary of $80,000.