Tax Hike, Tensions Spike During School Board Meeting

With winter at full blast outside, the heat was on high inside the Crestwood School Board’s January 21 meeting.

Fueling the fire was the announcement that a binding personnel contract was signed by the previous administration after close of business at the November meeting.

In a prepared statement read by Solicitor Jack Dean it was reported that, “the current school board recently learned that…the prior school board president signed a tentative contract without a motion to do so at the November 19th meeting and without knowledge of the full school board. We also recently learned that the version of the contract that was signed was not reviewed by the Financial Manager or myself.”

The statement continued that the subsequent review indicates that the impact of the contract, “will have severe financial consequences which may force the district to make cuts possibly to programs and staff.”

While long-term Financial Manager Albert Melone, Jr. had not completed a thorough review, the directors were required to approve a tentative budget at the January meeting or incur tax restrictions established by state index. Melone glumly described the fiscal future as “terminal,” with a “troubling shortfall of $1.6 million dollars,” and “a 4% tax increase.”

He said that the tentative budget allows the district to keep its option open, the plan is non-binding and may be adjusted as other matters are factored in.

Financial Planning Committee Chair William Jones made the motion to accept the Preliminary Budget of $37,986,982 with a tax rate of 10.614 mills. The current tax rate is 9.63470 with a budget amount of $35,643,500.

The tentative budget was unanimously approved by the board lead by President Eric Aigeldinger, who was the recipient of a plaque from the Pennsylvania School Directors’ Association in recognition of 28 years of service to Crestwood.

The session ended with a prolonged discussion regarding Director William Thomas, who also was acknowledged for 12 years of service.

The controversy related to his role as the district representative to the Wilkes-Barre Career and Technical Training Center. Prior to nominating