School District Votes to Raise Property Taxes

All but two members of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board voted at the May 28th board meeting to approve a 0.1552 mill property tax increase. The “no” votes came from board members Christine Katsock and Rev. Shawn Walker. Walker was appointed in May to replace Robert Corcoran after Corcoran moved to Germany but attempted to maintain his seat on the board by attending board meetings via the internet.

Board members Lynn Evans, Dino Galella, Phil Latinski, James Susek, John Quinn and Louis Elmy voted in favor of the increase. Board member Maryanne Toole did not attend the meeting.

The $0.1552 tax increase per $1,000 of assessed valuation means the average homeowner whose home is assessed at the median value of $72,500 would see an increase of $11.25 over their 2013 school district property tax bill.

Board member Christine Katsock also went on the record complaining about the city’s treatment of the LIU students. The Luzerne Intermediate Unit focuses on students with special needs and operates an agricultural program where students grow produce, and then sell that produce at the city’s farmers market on Public Square, with the city then charging the LIU $500 for use of the space. Katsock remarked, “It is an utter disgrace that the kids have to give their first $500 they earn to the city. This is yet another case of big business, or in this case, big city impacting the little guy.”

Messages left for city spokesman Administrative Coordinator Drew McLaughlin were not immediately returned.

Wilkes-Barre resident and 2011 city council candidate Sam Troy raised concerns about the $195,000 salary of Solicitor Raymond Wendolowski. Wendolowski defended his salary to the Gazette saying that it is a flat rate for the year, and a decrease from the nearly $220,000 spent in the past, which resulted from an hourly billing rate of $125. Wendolowski provides the school district with a monthly itemized statement showing hours worked. For the month of April 2013, Wendolowski spent 140.9 hours working for the district. Wendolowski said, “That’s a slow month,” with the busiest months being October, November, and December, as most of his legal duties arise from truancy issues.
The next meeting of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board is a June 10th work session at 5:30 pm, followed by a 7:00 pm regular session.

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