It was no easy task, but school board members in the Northeastern School District passed a budget Monday night.
During the marathon four-hour meeting, board members unanimously approved a 2012-13 budget that includes a 2.3 percent tax hike, the largest increase allowed by law.
The 0.54 mill increase raises taxes on a $100,000 home by $54.
Getting to a balanced budget, which totals $55 million, didn't come easy. At the start of the budget process, the district faced a $3.4 million deficit.
Through a series of cuts, which included laying off nine teachers and a number of extra- and co-curricular staff, the district was able to pare down the deficit.
"I'm really saddened that the state of education in Pennsylvania has come to this," Bill Gingerich, a board member, said after the budget was passed.
Cuts: In order to balance the budget, the district will transfer $550,000 from the capital projects fund to the general fund. That will be used to offset the 2007 debt service, said business manager Brian Geller.
Two teachers -- an emotional support teacher and a business education teacher-- were furloughed.
Furloughed teachers could be brought back to the district, Superintendent Jody Nace had previously said.
Before the board voted to furlough the teachers, Margie Walker, the board president, said it wasn't an easy decision to make.
"I would say for everyone around this table, this is a really difficult thing to do," she said.
Before the board voted to lay off seven teachers, Walker made the statement again.
In separate votes, the board approved eliminating the activity bus at the middle school and high school and to consolidate bus runs, which would mean kindergarten to grade 3 students in the Dauberton neighborhood would have to walk to school.
A letter will be sent to parents in the neighborhood alerting them to the change.
Tabled: The board tabled a vote that would increase pay to classified staff by 1 percent. But they approved a measure that will see classified and status E employees making contributions toward heath insurance offered through the district.
Classified staff, which includes custodians and cafeteria workers, received a 2.7 percent pay increase last year. They were to receive a 4 percent pay increase, but that was reduced to 2.7 percent.
Albert Byrnes, a board member, said he's in favor of giving the workers a raise again this year. The schools can't operate without them, he said.
"I think our human resources are as valuable as our natural resources," he said.
-- Reach Greg Gross at 505-5434, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/greggrss.