The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 14, 2013

Selinsgrove School District budget includes tax hike

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SELINSGROVE — Taxes will rise an average $35 a year under Selinsgrove Area School District’s proposed $37.47 million budget for 2013-14.

The spending plan was unveiled Monday night by Business Director Jeffrey Hummel and tentatively approved by the board. A final budget will be adopted in late June.

Spending is up nearly 3 percent, primarily due to a 6 percent hike in teacher salary and step increases; an 11 percent increase in medical insurance premiums and more than 4 percent jump in retirement costs.

Four teachers are retiring at the end of the year and the district projects it will save $220,000 by not filling two elementary teaching positions.

The tax levy will increase 2.2 percent under the tentative plan, requiring the district to collect an additional $318,500 or 1.3 mills of taxes.

Hummel projects difficult times in the years ahead as the district continues to struggle with rising expenses, particularly compensation costs — which currently represents about 74 percent of the entire budget — and retirement benefits, which he projected will skyrocket in the next several years until it reaches about $3.4 million in 2020.

Cohrs’ contract

The board also approved by a vote of 6-2 extending Superintendent Chad Cohrs’ contract for three years and giving him a 2.1 percent raise, to $124,664 a year, effective July 1.

Citing difficult economic conditions that persist and the fact that benefit expenses in the district are rising an at “out of control pace”, board president Paul Spiegel Jr. outlined changes in the way merit pay will be determined.

Specifically, the board will weigh the rate of education funding, the consumer price index and average wages when considering any merit increase Cohr may receive during the terms of the contract.

“It’s more in line to a business approach,” Spiegel said.

In addition Cohrs will pay 3 percent of his health care costs for the first two years and the amount he’ll pay in the third year will depend on changes in the district’s insurance plan.

Voting against the contract were board members William Bechtel Jr. and Todd Shimko. Thomas Badman was absent from the meeting.

Bechtel would not give a reason for his vote

Shimko said he disagreed with the decision not to include a residency clause in the contract.

“I think he should live in the school district,” he said.

When Cohrs was initially promoted to superintendent three years ago, the board including wording in his contract strongly recommending he relocate from Milton. He has not moved, and a majority of the board decided not to make it an issue this time.

Though he would also prefer the superintendent live in the district, board member Roger Sheesley said he didn’t want to make it a requirement of a financial contract.