Northampton Press

Monday, October 22, 2018

NASD budget vote is on June 11 agenda

Wednesday, June 6, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

2-percent proposed tax hike keeps baking elective, adds Spanish teacher

It’s been a long six months on the road to the Northampton Area School District’s 2018-19 final budget. The budget was first introduced Jan. 10. It was the middle of winter. The Jan. 8 school board meeting was postponed because of a snow/ice storm.

The first day of summer, June 21, is now approaching — and so is the deadline, June 30, for district budget approval.

The final budget is expected to be on the agenda for an up-or-down vote at the board of education meeting, to be held 6:30 p.m. June 11, in the NASD Administration Building, 2014 Laubach Ave., Northampton.

The good news for district taxpayers is that an initial tax hike of 3.90 percent is expected to be reduced to 2.01 percent. Northampton Area High School students can still have The World of Baking elective course in the family consumer science program for ninth grade and a new Spanish course and teacher.

The 82-page general fund proposed budget document was posted May 7 on the NASD website and can be viewed at nasdschools.org/domain/13.

The 2018-19 proposed budget has expenditures of $106,902,338 and revenues of $105,255,831 for a shortfall of $1,747.507. The expenditures include $3,604,294 from the district fund balance.

The figures could change in the final budget.

Based on a straw vote at the May 21 board of education meeting, seven of nine school directors favor the lowest possible tax increase — 2.01 percent, or an increase of 1.06 mills.

The percentage increase is under the Pennsylvania Department of Education-mandated annual percentage-increase cap of 2.9 percent.

If the millage increase of 1.06 mills is approved at the June 11 meeting, the 2018-19 millage rate would be 53.83, up from the 2017-18 millage rate of 52.77.

The value of one mill in NASD is $1,083,228.

Based on the 2017 average NASD assessment of $58,223.43 and a 2017 tax bill of $3,072.45, the 2018 tax bill would increase to $3,114.17 — or a $61.72 annual increase, $5.14 monthly increase and $1.29 weekly increase.

The district administration proposed a millage trim to 2.88 mills at the April 9 school board meeting. Five of the nine board members favored the 2.88-percent property tax increase in a straw poll at the April 23 meeting.

NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik, NASD Business Administrator Terry Leh, the administration team and the board of education put in long hours to reduce the initial tax hike, which was 3.90 percent when school directors voted 8-1 to approve the preliminary budget at the Jan. 22 meeting.

The initial deficit for the 2018-19 budget was about $6 million.

To get the tax hike down to 2.01 percent, the district, among other trims, reduced the contingency fund by $100,000 — from $400,000 to $300,000 — and calculated an additional $400,000 in commercial tax revenue from the FedEx Ground facility, expected to be in operation in fall 2018.

Kovalchik, in a June 4 phone interview with The Press, outlined what the budget provides for district residents, parents, administrators, teachers, staff and students.

Staffing

“We’re replacing all those professional staff members or teachers who are retiring,” Kovalchik said.

Six teachers retired.

Among the proposals at the April 8 board meeting was to eliminate The World of Baking elective course by replacing the family consumer science teacher with a Spanish teacher. The consumer science teaching position will be retained, and a Spanish teacher (the one new professional staff position) has been hired.

Other teaching positions being replaced because of retirements are a high school business technology teacher and four elementary school teachers. A district special education secretary retired and was replaced. Three special education aides retired and are being replaced.

Curriculum

Elementary reading textbooks and resources, elementary science textbooks, middle school textbooks, Spanish textbooks, German textbooks, advanced placement textbooks in biology and English and computer science software programming are among curriculum items to be purchased.

Technology

The 2018-19 budget includes 500 Chromebooks, the bulk of which — 430 — are for fifth-graders being promoted to the sixth grade. The remaining Chromebooks are for replacement and backup.

Facilities

The budget includes $400,000 for the new Lehigh Elementary School project.