BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
The Tunkhannock Area School Board approved a $42.8 million budget last Thursday that mirrored its budget committee recommendation of a week earlier with a 2-mill tax increase, but with deep cuts, including the elimination of 31 faculty positions.
Among them, a wiped out junior high athletic program at $80,000, no varsity lacrosse at $20,000, all field trips at $16,000 and furloughed positions amounting to $2,085,000.
The property tax rate was also raised two mills to 68.1 mills for 2012-13.
Several audience members spoke passionately about cutting areas other than faculty, but the board was firm in holding to what its budget committee recommended June 13.
High school sophomore Emma Tizzolanti spoke of her family moving into the district in 2005 because the school had a high graduation rate, SAT scores above the national average and many attractive extracurricular programs.
“You’re cutting junior high sports, funding for the school plays and many activities are just going to be gone,” Emma said while the graduation rate dropped significantly and the SAT scores are below the state average.
“What’s causing that?” she asked while rhetorically answering that class sizes are getting bigger and it’s not going to get any better eliminating these teachers.
Parent Anne DeMarco presented a petition signed by taxpayers to have the millage raised by four mills so so many teachers wouldn’t be cut.
But the board said it could not go more than two.
“Nobody wants to lay off 31 teachers,” board president Rob Parry said, “but four mills won’t cut it. Maybe if we had a referendum before the voters to raise taxes 10 mills, we could pay for it, but we don’t have that.”
He added, “No one up here said I’m going to run for school board because we want to destroy the program. There is just no way we can continue to pay for it all.”