Northampton Press

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

NASD administration lowers proposed tax increase

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 by Paul Willistein in Local News

Straw vote among school board will be held at next meeting, April 29

The Northampton Area School District administration returned to the board of education April 8 with a reduced proposed tax hike for the district’s 2019-20 general fund budget, lowering the percentage of increase from 3.79 percent to 2.69 percent.

The administration plans to take a poll of board members at the next school board meeting, 6:30 p.m. April 29.

“We’ll do some kind of straw vote at the next meeting,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said. “You’ve got to let us know so we have some time.”

“I’m ready. I’m ready to cut,” school board President David Gogel said.

If votes on other educational institutions’ budgets are an indication, several of Gogel’s fellow school board members may be inclined to agree.

School board Vice President Chuck Frantz indicated he would be saying “no” to agenda item No. 3 under Finances, the 2019-20 Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School general fund budget.

“I think if we need to cut, so do they,” he said.

Joining Frantz at the April 8 meeting in voting “no” on agenda item No. 3 were school Directors Roy Maranki, Robert Mentzell and John Becker.

Frantz and school Director Ross Makary voted against the Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 operating budget for 2019-20 at the March 25 NASD board meeting.

Gogel, Frantz and Maranki voted against approving the Northampton Community College 2019-20 educational and support budget at the March 11 NASD board meeting.

Kovalchik and NASD Business Administrator Terry Leh presented five options to the school board for the 2019-20 budget:

• Option 1 proposes a 4.14-percent tax hike, or an increase of 2.23 mills, using $3,420,000 from the district fund balance, for a $2,471,109 tax increase to 56.06 mills.

• Option 2, which was presented at the 2019-20 NASD general fund budget unveiling in January, proposes a 3.79-percent tax hike, or a 2.04-mill increase, using $3,420,000 from the district fund balance, for a $2,258,722 tax increase to 55.87 mills.

• Option 3, which Kovalchik and Leh said they prefer, proposes a 2.69-percent tax hike, or a 1.45-mill increase, using $3,420,000 from the district fund balance, for a $1,605,465 tax increase to 55.28 mills.

• Option 4 proposes a 1.99-percent tax hike, or a 1.07-mill increase, using $3,840,743 from the district fund balance, for a $1,184,722 tax increase to 54.90 mills.

• Option 5 proposes a 0-percent tax hike, or a 0-mill increase, using $5,025,465 from the district fund balance, for a $0 tax increase, keeping the mills at 53.83 mills.

The administration’s proposal for a 2.69-percent tax hike would keep the increase below the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 2019-20 Act 1 Index for NASD of 2.8 percent.

The administration’s 2.69-percent tax hike, or 1.45-mill increase, based on the 2018 average assessment of $59,444 in the district and the 53.83 mills and tax bill of $3,199.87, would increase the millage to 55.28 mills for a new tax bill of $3,286.06. That is an $86.19 annual increase, $7.18 monthly increase and $1.66 weekly increase.

Kovalchik and Leh, in their PowerPoint presentation to the board, explained how they reduced the increase to 2.69 percent during the approximate 45-minute discussion:

• Local revenue increases in real estate and Access funds reduced the budget by $411,000.

• Ten professional staff retirements were replaced, reducing the budget by $389,000.

• Administrative building and department reductions of 10 percent reduced the budget by $356,400.

Kovalchik said the 2019-20 proposed budget includes PDE-mandated positions of one high school guidance counselor, one high school special education teacher (funded through Access), one middle school special education teacher (funded through Access) and one elementary school special education teacher (funded through Access).

The timetable for the NASD 2019-20 budget is:

• April 29: direction from the school board on the budget.

• May 6: adoption of the 2019-20 proposed budget.

• May 31: advertisement of the final budget adoption by that date.

• June 10: adoption of the final 2019-20 budget.

The 2019-20 preliminary general fund budget, as presented in January, has expenditures of $110,718,113 and revenue of $105,039,391, for a deficit of $5,678,722, with $3,430,000 from the fund balance and a tax hike of 3.79 percent, or a 2.04-mill increase.

Based on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s commonwealth budget proposed in February, NASD could see a net increase of $140,000 in its basic education funding and no increase in special education funding.

The NASD school board next meets 6:30 p.m. April 29 in the multipurpose room of Lehigh Elementary School, 800 Blue Mountain Drive, Walnutport, following a 4:30 p.m. groundbreaking ceremony for the new school.