CLAYSBURG - Anticipating a budget vote next month that would raise property taxes and dip into the district's reserve funds, the Claysburg-Kimmel school board voted Wednesday to furlough five employees and eliminate their positions.
The eliminated positions - an emotional and autistic support staffer, a business teacher, an elementary computer-technology teacher, a librarian and a technical education teacher - are set to take effect after this school year ends, board President Terri Lingenfelter said Thursday.
The eliminated jobs will save Claysburg-Kimmel about $300,000 next year, Lingenfelter said.
Even with those cuts, however, the preliminary budget requires the maximum legal tax increase and a $125,000 contribution from the district's fund balance.
Board members are scheduled to vote on a final budget June 19.
"No one wants to furlough positions. None of the board members want to do it," Lingenfelter said. The board voted 6-3 in favor of the job cuts and 7-2 for the $10.7 million preliminary budget, district Business Manager Michelle Smithmyer said.
Despite cost-saving measures and the planned layoffs, property owners in the district could face a 2.5 percent tax increase, the maximum allowed without a referendum under state rules. Adjusted for Blair and Bedford counties' different property values, that would lead to an additional $40 in taxes per $10,000 of assessed property in Greenfield Township, Smithmyer said.
Taxpayers in Kimmel Township would see a small millage decrease, she said, citing the state's property-equalization system.
"The past couple years we've raised our taxes to the [state-defined] limit," Smithmyer said.
But with board members showing little hope for a timely state budget - let alone increased funding - cuts and tax hikes have continued. The $125,000 to be taken from the district's fund balance would be much higher without the furloughs and tax increases, Smithmyer noted.
Like many districts, Claysburg-Kimmel faces rapidly increasing retirement expenses in coming years, leaving more than half of its estimated $2.5 million fund balance reserved for long-term costs.
"You don't want to play your hand too soon," Smithmyer said. "It's a balancing game."
The furloughs could in theory be reversed by the school year's end, but administrators and board members didn't express confidence that a windfall would arrive before June 19. Lingenfelter noted that furloughs last year were eventually reversed, however.
The board vote named the five employees whose jobs are to be cut, but some hold seniority and could push out younger employees, school officials said. It wasn't clear Thursday whether that will happen.
Lingenfelter said the eliminated positions could be covered through other means: The district maintains other autistic support and business teachers, for example, and elementary students can learn about computer technology in other school settings. The eliminated technical education job could force students to take equivalent classes at the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center, she said.
Superintendent Royce Boyd was slated to meet Thursday with teachers' union representatives to discuss the budget, but Lingenfelter said she wasn't certain whether the meeting had taken place. Boyd and union representatives could not be reached Thursday.
Board members can craft a budget only on what they know, Lingenfelter stressed, and without a clear picture of state funding, many financial questions remain.
"It's very unlikely that we're going to find any loose money in the budget ... to bring back any of those positions," she said. "It's heartbreaking. It really is. And I don't see the rainbow yet."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.