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M AI NLI NE newspapers

Portage Area School District to increase tax rate by 1.7 mills

Vol. 114 No. 20

USPS 439-000

By Ron Portash

of Mainline Newspapers

After a contentious discussion, the Portage Area School Board approved a school real estate tax increase of 1.7 mills, which would add about $20 to the average household school real estate tax bill. At the beginning of the budget discussion, district superintendent Eric Zelanko offered three options for the school board concerning the estimated $212,000 deficit in the proposed $13 million budget. The first option proposed was for teacher cuts, which Zelanko did not recommend. The second option was a tax increase and suggested frugal budgeting, which is what he recommended to provide approximately $71,000 additional tax funding for the budget. This would

Portage, Pa.

reduce the deficit to $150,000, which is about 1.1 percent of the proposed budget. The third option was take no action and operate with a nearly 1.6 percent deficit of $212,000. The discussion became heated, as school board member Dennis Squillario questioned some of the athletics and afterschool program operation budgets. “We run a softball team for $845 but can’t run a baseball team for $4,500. No one will give me answer,” Squillario said? Squillario and J.T. Bandzuh voted no to the motion to adopt the proposed budget of $13,212,414. Board member Susan Berardinelli took several minutes to consider her vote. After minutes of deliberation, Berardinelli voted in favor of the proposed budget.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A second motion to implement the tax increase of 1.7 mills to make the rate 50.2 mills for the 2018-19 school year was again passed on a 5-2 vote with Squillario and Bandzuh voting against the increase. Board member Christian Smith and board president Erik Thrower were absent from the vote. The remaining tax structure will be unchanged with school occupational privilege tax remaining at $10, school per captia tax $5, earned income at 0.5 percent and realty transfer at 1 percent. Zelanko reiterated that the school district’s budget income is dependent on the state legislature and how it decides to fund schools. The proposed budget was drawn using the funding numbers submitted by Governor Tom Wolf. In addiSEE INCREASE, PAGE 2A

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Prom Promenade

South Fork council gets coal pile cleanup update of Mainline Newspapers

A day to remember

Summerhill Boro looks at future of park By Ron Portash

of Mainline Newspapers

The May 8 meeting of the Summerhill Borough Council discussed input from the meeting held April 30 concerning the future plans for the borough park. The council was satisfied with the response from the public survey and the nearly 20 people who attended the meeting in the park. The council authorized borough engineer Dan Beyer, of The EADS Group, to apply for funding for park improvements under the Pa. Department of Community and Economic Development Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program.

28 Pages

Kiley Papcun and Noah Kerch take part in the Portage Prom Promenade, held Friday, May 11, at the high school auditorium. Photo by Kristin Baudoux.

By Ron Portash

Billy Ramus (left), Abby Thrower, Paul Simala, Erika Thrower, Albert Koenigsberg and Logan Baumgardner get ready for the Prom Promenade at Portage Area High School May 11. Photo by Kristin Baudoux.

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At the May 14 South Fork Borough Council meeting, Cliff Kitner of the Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority provided a detailed update on the proposed removal of the Stineman Coal waste piles and the development of a trail from South Fork to the breast of the former South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club Dam. As an extension of the pilot program that funded the removal of the coal waste pile that loomed over Ehrenfeld, The Pa. Department of Environmental Protection received $25 million in federal funding to cleanup abandoned

mines. According to a statement from the DEP, the money for the projects comes from the federal Abandoned Mine Lands fund, a Department of the Interior program. The program is funded by a fee on current coal production, and the funds are used to clean up mines developed before modern environmental rules were created in the 1970s. The state selected 12 sites to clean up, including the Stineman Coal waste pile in South Fork Borough. Kitner said the DEP approached him about having the CCCRA as a sponsor of the project. As part of the funding requirements, there must be an SEE CLEANUP, PAGE 9A

Master plan design underway

The DCED Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program (Act 13 of 2012) was established from the Marcellus Legacy Fund to allocate funds for planning, acquisition, development, rehabilitation and repair of greenways, recreational trails, open space, parks and beautification projects in communities around the state. The borough is applying for funding for a .25 mile, 5-foot wide pedestrian loop walking path, improvements to existing parking area, enhancements to the existing sand volleyball court and the installation of a 16-foot diameter gazebo along with other improvements and additions. The council hopes the park project will attract new, younger families to the area and improve the quality of recreation for current residents. The council stressed that the park

project will be part of the Mainline Canal Greenway Corridor that traverses from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. The borough is required to commit a 15 percent match of the funding. Although the borough is submitting for the grant now, it does not anticipate that it would be awarded the first time it is submitted. Mayor Eric Miller said it took three attempts to get the state to fund the sidewalk safety improvements now in the design phase, with anticipated construction to start next spring. In other matters, the borough is at 34 percent of its anticipated annual budget. A discussion was held on the disbursement of the liquid fuels funds and county aid money for street and catch basin repairs. Borough street commissioner Tom Susko SEE PARK, PAGE 9A


First time voter Luke Chobany is thanked by Cambria County president commissioner Tom Chernisky at the Portage Township southwest precinct Tuesday, May 15. Photo by Ron Portash.

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