Northampton Press

Saturday, June 24, 2017

School board adopts final budget

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

2.99-percent increase equates to average of $90 in additional annual taxes

Northampton Area School District Board of Directors has adopted the 2017-18 final general fund budget, which calls for a 2.99-percent tax hike.

Based on the NASD 2016 average assessment of $58,094, which comprises 60 percent of district residences, the property tax bill increases from $2,976.74 to $3,065.62, or $88.88 more annually, $7.41 more monthly and $1.71 more weekly.

The 2.99-percent tax hike increases millage by 1.53 mills from the 2016-17 millage of 51.24 mills to 52.77 mills for the 2017-18 district general fund budget.

The budget includes a per capita tax of $5, real estate transfer tax of 0.5 percent and earned income tax of 0.7 percent.

In addition to the 2017-18 final general fund budget of $102,742,322, the board approved the athletic fund of $212,034 and food services fund of $2,413,955.

The budgets approved and the vote to adopt them are identical to the May 9 school board 8-1 vote to approve the proposed budgets.

The June 12 vote to adopt the NASD budget was 8-1, with school Director Roy Maranki voting against adoption.

Voting for adoption of the budget were David Gogel, board president; Chuck Frantz, board vice president; and school Directors Dr. Michael Baird, John Becker, James Chuss, Robert Mentzell and Judy Odenwelder.

Maranki voted against the proposed budget May 9 because he said taxes are “getting too much” for seniors and working people. In a straw poll at the April 24 meeting, Maranki and Gogel favored a 2.5-percent increase.

NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kovalchik and Business Administrator Terry Leh said the board’s adoption of the district budget occurs despite the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania still not approving its own budget, the deadline for which is June 30, also the deadline for school boards to approve budgets.

“Everything’s been status quo for a number of months,” Leh said.

“It’s the quietest it’s ever been,” Kovalchik said.

“There’s no talk about the (Pennsylvania) budget, just that the revenues are down,” Leh said.

Addressing school directors prior to the vote on the final budget, Kovalchik said, “You have to make a decision based on a lack of information.”

After the June 12 meeting, Kovalchik told a reporter for The Press that $61,000 in an expected increase from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is not included in the 2017-18 district budget.

The 2.99-percent hike is under the state-mandated 3.1-percent tax increase ceiling for the district’s 2017-18 budget. The administration did not implement exceptions to exceed the mandated ceiling. The first presentation of the budget was at the Jan. 9 board meeting.

The 2.99-percent tax hike would generate $1,648,066. That, plus the $3,604,294 from the district fund balance, would close a 2017-18 budget deficit of $5,252,360.

Allocations in the general fund 2017-18 budget are expected to include:

• Hiring two elementary school teachers, if needed, depending on fall 2017 incoming student enrollment

• Facilities and custodians supervisor: $99,447

• A support staff position (tax office): $55,750

• Substitute teacher salaries increase: $55,477

• Intermediate Unit 20 budget increase: $293,582

• Textbook reserves and replacements: $73,725

• Remedial and instructional materials and supplies: $58,600

• Elementary school field trips: $35,000

• Pre-K programs: $40,000

• Printers for Northampton Area High School classrooms: $53,502

• Replacement computers for George Wolf Elementary School’s lab: $41,010

• Skid steer loader: $37,300

• Administration, secretary computers: $36,941