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Voters Could Decide Easton Area School Budget

The Easton Area School Board is considering putting this year's budget on the ballot.

This year, voters in the Easton Area School District could help determine the fate of the district's budget.

The school board is considering creating a ballot referendum which would allow voters to decide whether the district can raise taxes beyond a state-mandated 2.1 percent cap.

It's a step the district has never taken, and one that it needs further legal advice on. But some board members think it's worth exploring.

“It may be a good idea to ask the people what they want," board member Frank Pintabone said at Tuesday night's finance committee meeting.

The board has two other options, district Chief Operating Officer Michael Simonetta said: pass a resolution pledging to keep the budget at or below the 2.1 percent cap, or apply for state exceptions that would allow the district to go beyond 2.1 percent.

Those exceptions can only be for the cost of pensions, construction or special education. Simonetta said it's not something the district has done in the last five years, if ever.

Board members will decide which path to take at their January 29 meeting. 

The district is looking at a $4 million budget gap next year, even with the projected 2.1 percent tax increase and an infusion of $500,000 from its savings.

That means the owner of a property assessed at $60,000 -- the district average -- would pay $68 more next school year in taxes. 

The referendum could create an even larger tax increase -- 7.5 percent -- something board member Pat Vulcano said he didn't think voters would approve at the May 21 primary election.

And even then, board member Robert Moskaitis said, an increase of that size "does nothing to improve the quality of edu in this district."

"The only thing it does is keeps us even," Vulcano said. "It’s like inflation. If inflation goes up two percent, and you get a two percent raise, did you get a raise?"

The board has until June 30 to adopt a final budget, but is expected to approve a preliminary budget much sooner. Last year, the district cut 169 jobs in an effort to balance its budget.

Flash Gordon January 18, 2013 at 11:35 AM
Can't wait till the board makes no decisions.
Brett Bonfanti January 18, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Lol. "It may be a good idea to ask the people what they want" This quote makes it sound like Pintabone thinks it's such an innovative idea. Well will EASD say 'enough' with these tax increases.
Armed Citizen January 20, 2013 at 02:13 AM
This area is turning into another suburb of NJ. My property taxes increased by nearly 40% in the last 9 years...All while being told all the new businesses and shopping centers were going to offset our taxes....LIE. This ballot nonsense is smoke and mirrors. Most people will vote for more goodies without understanding the cost. If there is a $4 million budget gap, they simply need to cut $4 million in expenses. Time to scale back these damn pensions. We simply can not afford it anymore.
Rasterone January 22, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Time to take a serious look at who does NOT put much in the revenue pot relative to burdens imposed.......hint residential landlords? Easton is now about 50% in the hands of investors, speculators, and commercial operators and some exempt entities......

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