School Board Members Spar Over Expenses In Effort To Reduce Costs

SOUTHERN LEHIGH HIGH SCHOOL – School board members here disputed appraisal expenses and the salary for a long-term substitute teacher Monday night.  Dr. Elizabeth Stelts, William Hayes, Dorothy Mohr, and John Quigley did not attend the meeting. 

Along with Vice President Michael Eddinger and Jeffrey Dimmig, Dr. Thomas McLoughlin questioned a clause guaranteeing $200 per hour to appraiser Ray Geiger for extra work outside the scope of his appraisal of the Saucon Creek Assisted Living facility.  Solicitor James Bartholomew explained that this rate applies to expert witnesses such as Geiger who may have to testify in court on an unpredictable court schedule.  Bartholomew said this rate reflects normal legal practices.  Board members pointed out that the school board must first request and approve all such extra work by Geiger, thereby preventing abuse of the clause. 

School Board member Dr. Thomas McLoughlin, Vice President Michael Eddinger, and Solicitor James Bartholomew talk about legal fees during Monday night's meeting. Photo by Judd Wilson, Southern Lehigh Tribune.

Dimmig also questioned the propriety of paying a prorated $58,613 salary for a long-term substitute English teacher.  Superintendent Joseph Liberati informed the board that this particular teacher’s main responsibility will be production of the high school yearbook.  According to Liberati, two prior searches for someone to fill the job yielded only unsatisfactory applicants for the position.  This particular applicant is a 35-year veteran of the Allentown School District.  Dimmig suggested that other job seekers, such as recent college graduates, might be better suited to oversee the yearbook at a lower cost.  “We’re talking about a yearbook,” Dimmig exclaimed.  Dimmig opposed Liberati’s suggestion to convene an immediate executive session to discuss the personnel issue, but changed his mind when other board members seconded Liberati’s motion. 

Following the members-only executive session, William Miracle motioned to table the issue, which McLoughlin seconded.  Dimmig asked for discussion of the motion, but was ruled out of order since there is no discussion of a motion to table a proposal.  The board voted to table the issue with Dimmig and Eddinger voting against.  Eddinger said he voted against it because “if you show up, you get to vote.”         

Eddinger predicted deep cuts in the five-year budget of the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute.  The first draft of the school board’s own five-year budget will be discussed at the budget and finance committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the Intermediate School Staff Development Room.  Dimmig, who chairs the committee, said saving money to keep teachers is “our goal.”  According to Dimmig, every $60,000 saved allows the school district to keep one full-time teacher employed.

The next Southern Lehigh School Board meeting will be held here at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.

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