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OFSB rejects tax hike

OLD FORGE - In a contentious 5-4 vote, the Old Forge School Board decided Wednesday not to raise taxes next school year to pay for the district's $11.98 million budget.

Administration officials had recommended a 3.87-mill increase that would have cost the average taxpayer about $46. Instead, the district's millage will stay at 107.5 in 2010-2011.

A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

The board's vote drew ire from the crowd of about 40, some of whom said the board was being shortsighted. Home­owners would be hurt even more by an inevitable ballooning tax hike, board members who voted in the minority said.

Board President Katherine Stocki voted to hold taxes along with Julie Aulisio, Patrick Aulisio, Eugene Talerico and Lawrence Enderline.

Ms. Stocki said she could not justify raising taxes when no millage amount could possibly cover the enormous pension costs facing Old Forge. The pension crisis will require state intervention, she said.

But board member Ronald Stacchiotti accused Ms. Stocki of "running this school district into the ground." He voted against the budget, along with Deborah DeSando, Christopher Jones and Marygrace Mailen.

Without a tax increase, the district is estimated to end the 2010-2011 fiscal year with a fund balance of little more than $200,000, business manager Anthony Spadoni said.

"It's going to be a tough year," he said.

The dispute became derisive when Mr. Stacchiotti accused the voting majority of colluding before the meeting and violating the Sunshine Law.

"This was decided before we got here," he said.

Ms. Stocki challenged him to name the people he was accusing. He declined and said he knew how the budget vote would play out.

"I did not know you were clairvoyant," Ms. Stocki said.

In other business, the board voted 5-4 to reject a change to employee interview policy that would have allowed board members to attend all stages of the interview process. Currently, administrators conduct two rounds of screening before a job candidate interviews before the board.

The board also split 5-4 when approving the bills for May. Ms. DeSando, who led the dissenting minority, said she questioned why two bills for special legal counsel had been authorized without board consent.

Contact the writer: jburton@timesshamrock.com