In a 5-4 vote Thursday night, the Tunkhannock Area School Board voted to raise property taxes in the district from 70.2 to 72 mills.
Board member Rob Parry initially moved to pass the budget with no millage increase by funneling money from the pension reserve fund.
“I can’t vote for any millage increase - it’s just avoiding the inevitable,” Parry said. “You can’t fix this with taxes.”
Parry’s motion received no second, as he expected.
Treasurer Philip Farr expressed his belief that, although there was no simple fix to the problem, a variety of small changes could lead to a more promising outlook.
“We’re not going to fix it at the snap of a finger - things aren’t that simple, quite frankly,” Farr said. “I don’t think we can not raise taxes, but at least we can bide some time to figure out those pieces.”
Vice president Sandra Lane echoed those sentiments.
“There is no wiggle room - there is no fluff (in the budget),” Lane said, noting that the budget has remained essentially unchanged from last year in all categories apart from salaries and benefits.
With that in mind, board member Bill Swilley made the motion to pass the budget for 2014-15 with a 1.8 millage increase.
The move will bring in just under $500,000 in revenue for the district.
Voting ‘no’ on the motion were Parry, Kim Teeters, Bill Weidner and Randy Greenip.
In other business, board members used June’s ‘Employee of the Month’ spotlight to highlight assistant superintendent Ann Way’s work within the district as she heads toward retirement at the end of June.
Superintendent Michael Healey marked the recognition by offering a ‘brief’ list of the many initiatives Way spearheaded at Tunkhannock which include, to name a few: Blended Schools, implementation of the K-12 program through RTII, development of a five-year curriculum cycle, staff development evaluations, and a biannual art display at the administration building.
“I thank you for your time, energy, effort, companionship, mentorship, and for just being part of a team that has come to like, know and respect you greatly,” Healey said.
Healey noted that it was Way’s desire to hand out the last diploma at graduation this year but, because something came up and required her to leave early, she missed the opportunity.
She made a point of meeting with the student and his family following graduation, presenting him with a ‘very nice gift.’
This, Healey said, was an exemplification of Way’s dedication to the students she served.
In his superintendent’s report, Healey announced the hiring of a new assistant superintendent, Mary Gene Eagen, for $90,000 a year, with a starting date that is yet to be determined.
Ann DeMarco spoke up just before board members voted on the appointment, questioning whether or not it was necessary to hire someone for the position at such a high salary.
“I realize this may be a dynamic person - a fabulous person - this may be somebody the district is hungry for, but we simply cannot afford it as a district,” DeMarco said.
Healey noted that the appointment would actually save the district money, as Way’s salary was higher than the new assistant superintendent’s will be.
Lori Bennett voted against hiring her, but the motion passed 8-1.
Other appointments include: Richard Appleby, athletic filmer; Jeff Stage, boys assistant football coach; Rich Seaberg, boys assistant football coach; Dave Scoblick, boys assistant football coach; Ben Simmons, junior high assistant football coach; Paul Grabowski, junior high assistant football coach; Tom Johnson, equipment manager; Bill Melan, girls head soccer coach; John Joseph, boys assistant soccer coach; Ashley Darby, girls assistant field hockey coach; Christine Swilley, eighth grade girls field hockey coach; and Aaron Keich, assistant junior high cross country coach.
For the ‘Student of the Month’ highlight, Tunkhannock High School’s robotics team ‘Tigertrons 222,’ headed by Scott Howell with a little help from Barb Sick, both high school teachers, was chosen due to their strong fares in state competition this year.
Students spoke to the board regarding their experiences, even pointing to the promising collegiate careers ahead of them due to their involvement with robotics.
Recent graduate Nick Norris shared with board members how joining Tigertrons helped him to understand his regular course-load on a more profound level.
“I could take what I was learning in class and use that practically in robotics,” Norris said.
Howell listed off the team’s 2013-14 accomplishments and even brought in the prize-winning robot for a little show.
“We appreciate your support - we’ve been blessed because of it,” Howell said.