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Lehighton School District breaks down expenses, looks at deficit

Published June 11. 2019 02:33PM

 

A second straight week of lengthy discussion on its proposed 2019-20 budget left Lehighton Area School District in a similar position of searching for ways to address a projected $4 million deficit.

Business administrator Patricia Denicola again outlined Lehighton’s expected expenses, breaking it down by personnel and non-personnel related expenses.

According to Denicola, Lehighton has about $30 million in proposed personnel expenses including $16.6 million for salaries, $7 million for the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System contribution and employer taxes, and $6.4 million for employee benefits. Lehighton is expecting $15 million in non-personnel items including $1.5 million for mandated charter school costs, $1.73 million in support of Carbon Career and Technical Institute, $234,000 in support of Lehigh Carbon Community College, $20,000 in support of the Lehighton Memorial Library, $2.6 million in special education costs from the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit and other entities, $3.7 million in bond payments ($1.9 million of which is interest), and $5.13 million for other expenditures such as supplies, utilities, repairs, etc.

“The budget was built on our collective bargaining agreements that are in place, current year-to-date expenditures and a three-year average on what the district has actually spent,” Denicola said.

Denicola took over in March for Brian Feick, who accepted a business administrator position at Schuylkill Valley School District. A budget presentation in January had Lehighton projected for a deficit just over $200,000.

The issue, Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said, is that the budget for 2018-19, for example, was not put together using actual past expenditures.

“Our 2018-19 budget had $11.5 million for all of our benefits and year-to-date we have already spent $14.9 million,” Cleaver said. “It’s not just an insurance issue, however. Our special education costs, for example, were budgeted at $680,000 when we spent $997,000 in 2017-18. For the 2019-20 budget, we now have that projected at $1.1 million because costs always go up.”

Director David Bradley questioned Denicola on a statement made at last week’s budget workshop regarding the status of benefit payments on the district’s expense reports. Throughout the 2018-19 fiscal year, before Denicola arrived, benefit payments made to insurance carriers were not indicated in the expense reports of the district and not shown on budget summaries.

“The payments were made, but they were not shown in the expenditures,” she added.

Bradley, however, said he doesn’t think the problem is as the district perceives it to be.

“I think this is a financial shuffle, unless you’re telling me the district spent money it didn’t have, which would be irresponsible and immoral,” Bradley said. “The district has been on a path of overconsumption for a decade and nobody put checks and balances back in the system.”

Lehighton’s next board meeting is scheduled for June 24. The state requires that it passes a budget by June 30.

“There has been very little discussion the last few weeks on how we’re going to close the gap,” former board member and district resident Dave Krause said. “I’d like to hear some more on that.”

Denicola said multiple factors could play in a role in how much that projected $4 million deficit changes over time.

“We could see items trend in a positive direction such as charter school costs if more students come back to our own virtual academy, or if our health care claims go the other way,” she said. “Right now, over 40 percent of our claim costs are coming from 36 individuals so if any one of them greatly improves, that will help our benefits cost as well.”

 

Comments
Dear Community,

Good afternoon. This is a perfect example of the chaos that is created without knowledgeable oversight. This article documents contradictory statements by two administration officials and the board has no governance to hold either party accountable. Enter Citizen David F. Bradley, Sr. to set the records straight.

1) “The issue, Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said, is that the budget for 2018-19, for example, was not put together using actual past expenditures.”

A rational retort from Citizen Dave:
This is a lie. It is proven to be a lie by the data report file showing the work products of the proposed budget. That report file shows the use of five year's budget numbers and actual expenditures, removing the extraordinary consumptions of a feckless board. Such lies should invoke a reprimand and this statement directly contradicts the next statement spoken by a Lehighton School District Administrator. See below. The government board majority apparently lacks the will to correct the actions and deception presented by the Superintendent in his statement. A lie, known to be a lie, repeated and echoed is one of the tactics used by dictators to maintain control, its antidote is transparency.

2) “The budget was built on our collective bargaining agreements that are in place, current year-to-date expenditures and a three-year average on what the district has actually spent,” Denicola said.

A rational retort from Citizen Dave: This approach is completely irresponsible unless of course, the business office is planning on burdening this community with a new multi-million dollar stadium every three years. This approach pads the budget in creating a proposed budget that adds the burden of a multi-million stadium and EC 'off construction' consumption to the community. Such actions should invoke a formal reprimand; transparency can be a disinfectant if it applied with a moral rigor. This government majority board apparently lacks the will or skill in listening to a logical argument concerning data that is factual, a not ambitious in any way. There is no argument over the reference materials, just an argument over the access to all the reference materials. Transparency is the fight.
Inexperience or ulterior motives should be the focus of the investigation.

The budget should be created by using a moral code of ethics.
The people, the stakeholders, set the moral standard.
Personally, my moral standard is to take no more dollars than required to meet the lawful entitlements as required by our State constitution. If additional dollars are requested, the payers in the system should be asked for their approval. For such discretionary spending is not the government's to give (Bunce/Crockett). Transportation, for example, is an easy one to ask for and yet morally it should still be asked every year, and the people should have the right to fund or give, this luxury if they see fit. The people have the right to decide, each every year to provide such a luxury and if doing so should be graciously thanked. A community generously provides another year of bussing, the safest means of student transportation. This board has lost respect for the stakeholders and appear to seek the favor of the lobbyist that fund their campaign. When a community is silenced, the animosity escalates.

To set the budget, a team of wise people review of the past budgets and actual consumptions and subtract the past extraordinary luxury consumptions. (stadium, EC off construction budget items, etc.) A proposed budget including the lawful and the optional, non-lawful consumptions should be presented. The generosity of the community should be itemized. This way the world can see the value of a community school with local control by a government of, by and for the people.

Sincerely,

Citizen David F. Bradley, Sr.


PS. Transparency is coming, slowly. Seek out the spreadsheet that contains all the numbers. The last five years, budget and actuals. Then question why the five Rubber stamping SLAPPer majority and the Hometown team of insiders BLOCKED it from being shared. Soon to be fixed, this rabble-rouser is meeting my promise to crack open this district's corruption, legal and illegal authorization of governmental funds. Next, we remove the obstructions to transparency and challenge those rubber stampers to seek a higher moral code. We remind them to provide oversight to those they were elected to oversee. The community actually sets the budget, the board, their public servants, just lawfully approves the budget. That is why it is a state requirement to be publically published a proposed budget 20 days before approval. Others should join me in giving these arrogant dignitaries a well-deserved civics refresher course prior to these meetings.

I hope to see you all at the June 24th meeting. Any one person can make a difference and everyone should try.
More to consider:

Why does this budget include the consolidation savings?
Where is the staff attrition from the elementary center?
Why are the expenditures, those listed on my reports, not seen by the rubber stampers authorizing their 'blind trust'? Sorry, just answered that myself, my bad. Go on with your day.

Why are these people not held accountable by this rubber stamping board?
These numbers show are we paying $1.9M in interest to get an invisible $0.8M in staff savings as promised by the past board members signing the ACT 34 documents.

Once the moral and financially bankrupt LASD gets taken over by the state, the abuses of power for favoritism, nepotism, and cronyism will probably be removed, probably.

Why probably? Well, how much leverage will the lobbyists that fund the Hometown team use to get a staff friendly candidate planted on this board just prior to the contract negotiation?

Will they pressure the Republican party and Democratic party to ignore their policies and ignore their oath? Will the lobbyist wrangle past the voice of the people, and hand appointing another stamper?

Exciting times when transparency allows us to watch the corruption live, in real time.

Sincerely,

Citizen David F. Bradley, Sr.

The hometown team has suddenly gone silent. Before the election all they did was bash build a board now that they have won I guess they don’t need to answer to anyone. My suggestion is no tax hike cut teachers salaries make them pay for their health care like the rest of the world and cut their Cadillac pension. That will save big money.
Dear Heyman,

Good morning. Please download the spreadsheet of data pertaining to the budget.
Not only is there plenty of room for savings, but those on the board connected with the Hometown team and zealot Andrew Yenser, all failed to release all the data to the people for review. The spreadsheet we released shows all the favoritism and cronyism spending.

It is the lobbyists that are silent, as they appear to be running the Hometown team.

The details of the medical benefit money grab and the budget have the rubber stampers flustered. Wayne Wentz, Rita Spinelli, Larry Stern, Andrew Yenser and Steve Holland failed to Honor their Oath of Office with this budget debacle. Personally, I look forward to asking this board for a forensic audit and watching the five SLAPPers squirm as they vote.

Jim Thorpe had a few thousand in discrepancy, and here we have $3.8M. You watch as the elected official vote. It should be a great YouTube moment for them and their grandkids when they learn about character in the newly named museum. The Transparency Center, a Legacy of Debt that crushed a community.

Sincerely,

Citizen David F. Bradley, Sr.
Wow this did not take long to write this "I TOLD YOU SO COMMENT"! Thanx to all the sheep out there that blindly followed the a@@holes stearn,wentz and the other morons your tax increase is coming! Oh and by the way those jerks did promise they would not raise taxes ! It is just amazing we don't hear anymore comments backing those IDIOTS , all those sheep are now trying to figure out how they pay for those jerks new school and there fafafafootball stadium that NO ONE WANTED!
Going through the two Bond documents from 2015 today I found that in 2040 there will be a payment of just shy of 11 million dollars due that year between the two bonds. Whatever were they thinking?
Perhaps we are going about this the wrong way. How many children attend Lehighton schools district schools that live in another district..... I can name quite a few that are driving up our taxes for a lovely school system..... from tamaqua to panther valley our neighbors are taking advantage of us.
Perhaps we are going about this the wrong way. How many children attend Lehighton schools district schools that live in another district..... I can name quite a few that are driving up our taxes for a lovely school system..... from tamaqua to panther valley our neighbors are taking advantage of us. I suspect 10 to 20 percent of our students do not reside in our district. Instant savings. But no one wants to say it out loud.
Dear local citizen, as that may be a small issue the real problems are the Hometown JERKS that shoved two new schools and a fafafafootball stadium <that did NOTHING to better education > down our throats. Next the teachers and there a@@hole union that is completely out of touch with reality in thinking we the taxpayers can keep funding the way we have. So the next time you see a moron hometown board member thank them for raping the area.

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