New Castle News

June 26, 2012

Cuts, tax hike won’t balance Wilmington budget

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Wilmington school board adopted its budget Monday night — with a tax hike and cuts.

The vote on the $18,416,543 spending plan was 7-2, with Dr. Bo DiMuccio and William Taylor opposed. They both had voted against the tax increase when the majority of the board approved it two weeks ago.

Despite raising taxes and trimming about $316,000 in expenses, there is still a deficit of about $800,000, DiMuccio pointed out.

Property taxes are set at 13.3 mills in Lawrence County — an increase of nearly 5 percent — and 63.1 mills for Mercer County,

Superintendent Dr. C. Joyce Nicksick read a list of cuts for next year, including elimination of the middle school intramural programs — track, basketball and volleyball — for a savings of $4,960.

The district also absorbed a third-grade teaching position, saving $63,043. Other cuts and savings are: elementary field trips, $1,500; summer custodial help, $10,000; early intervention tuition, $20,000; new social studies textbooks, $38,000.

The district had considered eliminating a seventh- and eighth-grade art teacher, but restored it.

“We’ve worked at minimizing things that are useful and helpful, but still provided for things that are needed,” she commented.

DiMuccio said that initially, the district had anticipated a deficit of $1,025,372 for the 2011-12 school year that would have to come from the fund balance.

He deferred to district business manager Jennifer Conrad, who said that although the figures are not all in yet, the actual amount that deficit will be closer to $300,000, “but that’s totally a guess.”

For next school year, there is a proposed deficit of $830,000, even with the tax hike, he said, noting the increase generates about $280,000.

“We’d have to triple that amount to balance the budget,” he said. “Even so, we are still spending about a million more than we are taking in next year. We’re starting to run deficits.”

He pointed out the nature of the increases are such that the district cannot do anything about it.

“It’s hard for me to support this, even though we’ve done almost everything we can do.”

The district has instituted “pay to play” for sports and other programs.

“I support the budget,” Carol Shaw Harris said, “but I oppose pay to play.”

She noted some families will not be able to afford having their children participate.

The board heard from several district residents about the budget.

Sherry Perrine of Old Pulaski Road, a parent, teacher and coach, spoke against the elimination of the intramural track program, noting “you need middle school track so kids know where they function in that sport.”

Until this year, the team has broken records in double digits, she said. It travels to four different meets and has three at home.