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UPSD 2019-20 Budget Approved with Tax Hike
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2019-06-19

            By a 5-4 vote, the Upper Perkiomen School Board voted last week to approve a 2019-20 budget with a proposed millage increase of 2.8 percent.  The $64.003 million budget calls for property tax increase of $106.46 for the median property owner in Montgomery County and $83.84 for the median property owner in Berks County.

            President Kerry A. Drake, Raeann Hofkin, Melanie Cunningham and Stephen Cunningham voted against the action item to ratify the budget during the June 13 regular meeting.

            After the meeting, Hofkin described the tax increase as excessive. Hofkin, Drake and Melanie Cunningham each said the district's recent history of end of the year surpluses influenced their votes. Drake said he would like to the see the forecasted savings end up more in line with the actual figures.

            Recently, the district has ended the school year with relatively large surpluses. During the meeting, Business Administrator Sandra Kassel told the members she expects that figure for the 2018-19 school year to end up net zero or as a small surplus despite earlier estimates of a $300,000 deficit. Drake asked Kassel to present the figure to the board in September.

            Hofkin attempted to introduce a motion setting the millage rate increase at 1.5 percent. However, Solicitor Kyle Somers recommended that they move forwards with a motion by Dr. John Farris to proceed with the 2.8 millage rate because it was listed on the meeting agenda.

            Hofkin said she chose 1.5 percent because she thought she might have the votes for it. However, the member said she would have favored no tax increase.  "I think we overtax our residents," Hofkin said after the meeting.

            The budget for the upcoming school year includes a 3.9 percent increase over the current year ($2.435 million). Increases in salaries ($717,192), debt service ($625,542) and benefits ($558,502) account for most of the growth.

            The staffing increases include a math/science teacher at the middle school, an elementary music teacher and a transportation director or coordinator. The newly ratified budget also fully funds a proposal by acting Superintendent Andrea Farina to hire a student assistant counselor at Marlborough and Hereford elementary schools and the district's 4th and 5th Grade Center, to train a group of para-professionals as registered behavioral technicians and to consider adding a fourth full-time school psychologist.

            In April, at a Special Education and Pupil Services Committee meeting, Farina explained that the intent of the recommendation is to support the emotional needs of students and to support classroom teachers with strategies to collect necessary data that "saturates a multi-tiered support process."

            The proposed tax increase would generate an additional $1.618 million in revenue, according to Kassel. However, Kassel said told the board during the May 9 regular meeting that a $1.5 million transfer from the district fund balance would be necessary to balance the budget.

            "This budget is very, very tight," she said during the meeting.

            Farris and Joan Smith participated in the meeting by telephone.


 

 

 

 

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