Northwest approves $19M budget with no tax increase

By Tom Huntington - For Times Leader

UNION TWP. — The Northwest Area School Board eliminated a projected deficit while unanimously passing a 2018-19 budget this week that is essentially balanced: $19,047,918 in projected expenditures and $19,048,454 in anticipated revenue.

At a May meeting, the board unveiled a proposed budget that listed $19.6 million in expenses and $19,000,467 in revenue. But through reductions in salaries and benefits, the budget was balanced.

Property taxes will stay steady at 10.7458 mills. The levy is expected to yield over $5 million in revenue for Northwest next school year, said business manager Kristy Straub. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Besides real estate taxes, Straub also estimated that state reimbursement will be over $11.6 million in 2018-19. Federal reimbursement was listed at $460,545.

Northwest also generates revenue from a series of per capita and earned income taxes and occupation assessments imposed in the various municipalities that make up the district.

Also this week, the school board announced a major decision had been reached with regard to district security. In an 8-0 vote (director Gerald Conger was absent) a former state trooper, Matthew Patterson, was retained as school resource officer at the secondary school at a rate not to exceed $24 per hour for 180 days of service.

In conjunction with Patterson’s appointment, directors voted to table a proposal to retain Charles West for constable service at the Huntington Township and Hunlock Township schools at a rate of $150 per day.

Board president Gary Boberick said in regard to the situation with West, “We’re evaluating security measures and since we now have a resource office we’ll announce a decision later.”

After school shootings in Texas and Florida, the school board decided to have armed constables on duty in the second half of the 2017-18 term. West provided this service.

Patterson’s background includes the military police and 25 years of service with the Pennsylvania State Police. Since retiring as a trooper, Patterson said he has done part-time security work at the nuclear power plant near Berwick.

Stadium work update

In reporting on the progress of renovations at Lewis and Miller Memorial Stadium, director of district operations Betsy Ellis said there is an “urgent need” to move 2,500 cubic yards of dirt from javelin pit areas. Ellis said the pile has the potential to delay the project, although she also mentioned the problem was half solved by Hunlock Township officials. They agreed to take about 1,000 cubic yards for an athletic field project they have underway.

The board decided the remainder of dirt will be moved at the district’s expense.

There is also a pile of 6,000 cubic yards at the site, but Superintendent James McGovern has made arrangements to have the dirt hauled to the Lake-Lehman School District for fill at its athletic practice facilities.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the interim appointment of Sean Miller as boys varsity basketball coach.

• Approved the appointment of Brian Reed as assistant basketball coach.

• Acted to rescind the request of Leora Noss for a leave of absence as a paraprofessional.

• Accepted a proposal by the state Department of Environmental Protection for a study of the water system at the Huntington Township school.

By Tom Huntington

For Times Leader