Northwest Area votes to raise taxes

By Tom Huntington - For Times Leader

UNION TWP. — Property taxes will increase by 1.5 percent to finance the 2017-18 Northwest Area School District budget.

This week, the school board, with only six of nine members present, approved the spending plan on a 5-1 vote.

Gary Boberick of the board’s finance committee said the budget will total $18.7 million, increasing real estate taxes to 10.7452 mills. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Boberick also said the spending plan represents an increase of $225,889 in expenditures.

The budget was affirmed on the votes of directors Boberick, Leigh Bonczewski, Ed Beleski, Daryl Morgan and Michael Kreidler. Director Alton Farver cast the only no vote. Absent from the meeting were Randy Tomassaci, Gerald Conger and Peter Lanza.

Besides the budget, the board voted to approve three separate contracts for student transportation extending from 2017-18 to 2021-22. Adam Sorber, who administers transportation and electronic services, said the contracts are “fair and solid.” Kristy Straub, director of finance, said the first year of the contracts will cost the district $1.7 million, 88 percent of which will be reimbursed by the state Department of Education.

The district’s bus carriers include the Kabata, Barchik and Dohl firms.

In another major fiscal outlay, the board awarded a contract to Turf, Track and Court LLC of Hershey for the installation of a 400-meter synthetic track at the football stadium. It was stated installation will be at a cost not to exceed $73,140.

The building and grounds committee, chaired by Bonczewski, is also considering the installation of synthetic turf on the football field. But Bonczewski said that is a matter still under discussion, although a decision could be announced publicly at the June 21 board meeting.

In other matters, the board:

• Heard a complaint from Charles Ridgely of Huntington Township about the grading practices of a ninth-grade English teacher. Ridgely complained that the “failure rate” of this teacher was unusually high. He was told by Angela Evans, solicitor, that the matter is a personnel issue and couldn’t be discussed by the school board in public.

• Accepted a notice of retirement from Colleen Nearhouse, elementary guidance counselor, effective Oct. 31, 2017.

• Approved a bid of $22,427 by the Designer Acoustics Company for the installation of ceiling tile on the second floor of the high school.

• Approved contracts with County Waste of Pa. and Button Oil & Propane for waste and fuel oil services in 2017-18.

• Heard from Betsy Ellis, director of operations, that several events have been scheduled for Saturday, May 20, including the 5-K Ranger Run/Walk; dedication of the renovated fieldhouse; ceremonies commemorating the naming of the athletic complex in honor of the late Ronald Powlus — former Northwest coach and administrator — and a carnival featuring games and food. The newly organized Ranger Foundation has been instrumental in organizing the events, Ellis said.

By Tom Huntington

For Times Leader