Lake-Lehman gives initial OK to tax hike, learns teacher in altercation reinstated

By Eileen Godin - | May 9th, 2016 10:58 pm

School board also learns investigated teacher was reinstated

By Eileen Godin

LEHMAN TWP. — A Lake-Lehman School Board majority voted to include a 3 percent mill rate increase in the proposed 2016-17 budget Monday and learned a teacher involved in an altercation with a student has been reinstated.

Andrew Salko, president of Lake-Lehman School Broad, along with board members Robert Wright and Robin Wesley voted against an increase, which would result in a 10.2806 mill rate to be levied on Luzerne County residents within the district.

Salko said he voted no after seeing district Business Manager Thomas Melone’s presentation. “I am concerned with the idea of staying at a 3 percent increase,” Salko said.

Wright said he wanted to wait until next month to determine if a 3 percent mill increase is beneficial for Lake-Lehman School District.

“I am not sure either way,” Wright said.

Melone gave a 15-minute presentation to the school board on the $30.5 million final proposed budget.

“The impact to homeowners in Luzerne County would be an additional tax rate increase of $47.25,” Melone said. “If you raise the tax to the index limit (which is reflected in a 3 percent increase) it would result in a $370,000 revenue for Lake-Lehman.”

School district residents in Wyoming County would see a 53.2217 mill rate, a 1.82 percent decrease in property taxes, Melone said.

A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value.

In January, Melone advised the school board members that they should apply for an exception to raise the mill rate above the 3 percent state index limit. During the January meeting, Melone said the district could qualify for an exception due to the rising costs of special education and health care.

But Melone noted some changes have occurred in the 2015-16 budget, including a reduction in a budget shortfall from $1.2 million to

$400,000, Melone said Monday.

Melone attributes this reduction to the district having a 90 percent tax collection rate, and several revenue adjustments including healthcare expenditures, which decreased from $800,000 to an estimated $150,000.

The proposed budget is slated for final approval at the June meeting.

In other news, Lake-Lehman teacher, David Hopfer is back on the job following a March 23 physical altercation with a male student, said Superintendent James McGovern.

“He was back in the classroom on May 4,” McGovern said. “He is a really good teacher.”

The incident was investigated by the district and Luzerne County Children and Youth Services.

Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.