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UPSD School Board Votes to Limit Tax Hike
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Members of the Upper Perkiomen School Board took action last week to limit the amount of a potential tax increase for the 2019-20 year budget. By a 6-2 vote, the board approved a resolution opting out of seeking any exceptions through the Pennsylvania Department of Education to increase taxes beyond the indexed rate.

            Dr. John Farris and Joan Smith opposed the measure, which limits a potential tax increase to 2.8 percent as the Index established by the state agency. At most, if taxes are raised, a median property owner in Montgomery County would face a tax hike of $106.30. Berks County residents could similarly see an increase of $82.44, according to information provided by Sandra Kassel, the district's business administrator, after the Jan. 24 workshop meeting.

            Kassel also presented a preliminary budget for the next school year. She described the figures as "super preliminary." The proposal includes $62.177 million in revenues, projects a $1.865 million deficit and includes a 2.8 percent tax hike.

            One slide listed debt service, operational, salaries and benefits as the major expenditure increases. Another slide, titled Areas of Concern, listed basic instructional subsidy, special education subsidy, all other state subsidies and federal grants under a heading of revenue. Professional salaries, healthcare benefits and debt service are located under a list titled expenditures.

            "This is a beginning point," Superintendent Alexis McGloin said during the meeting.

            Prior to his no vote, Farris said he didn't think the board should "tie its hands" in terms of how much the board could raise taxes. He cited the recent cost to remove the mold at the high school, as well as the construction of the new middle school and the conversion of the current middle school to a center for fourth and fifth graders.

            Smith, before casting her vote, said there was not enough information to make a decision. Additionally, she expressed her opposition to a tax increase.

            According to Kassel, the district's finances include $4 million of uncommitted fund balance. "That's yours to use," she said in response to a question from member Judy Maginnis.

            If the district decided to opt into the state program, which would have allowed the board to apply for taxing exemptions, they would have needed to vote immediately to approve the preliminary budget to meet a state deadline, according to Kassel.

            She said the district was eligible for an additional exemption worth $83,000, a relatively small amount. 





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