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UPSD Budget Approved with Split Vote

            By a 5-4 vote, the Upper Perkiomen School Board on June 15 ratified the 2017-18 district budget with a 3 percent millage increase.

            Board President Dr. John Farris, Vice President John Gehman and members Jonathan Warren, Wilfred Pike III and Joan Smith voted in favor of the $59.86 million budget at the public meeting. Kimberly Baccari, Kerry Drake, Mike Elliott and Raeann Hofkin voted against the motion.

            The budget calls for a millage increase from 23.6388 to 24.3479. The median Montgomery County property owner would be responsible for an additional $108.02 in taxes, while the median property owner in Berks County would pay an additional $85.51, according to information provided by Sandra Kassel, the district's business administrator.

            Baccari, Drake, Elliott and Hofkin expressed their preference for a smaller increase. Baccari, Drake and Hofkin voted for a motion that would raise millage rates by 2 percent.

            "Three percent is too high," Hofkin said. "The community can't afford it."

            Hofkin repeated her assertion that the tax increase is too high if district officials do not approve the construction of a new middle school, and too low of the new facility is approved.

            Elliot suggested a 2.5 percent rate increase prior to the votes. During a break in the meeting, he suggested that the rate might provide the ideal middle ground. The member said he felt responsible to balance the needs of the children with a responsibility to the community and a desire to treat the district's employees fairly.

            "We need to try to find the right balance to take care of everything we need to," Elliot said. "Maintaining a school district is challenging enough."

            Prior to the votes, Gehman – who owns the Butter Valley Golf Port – said no one in the room, other than Melanie Cunningham, would be more impacted than him from the tax hike.

            "The tax rate itself is not going to make or break me," he said. "The tax itself is going to break me. But for the fiscal solvency of the district, I will bite the bullet and go for [a] 3 percent [increase]."

            The final budget – which represents a 3.6 percent increase over the 2016-17 budget – is $132,231 less than the proposed budget, according to information provided by Kassel.

            Adjustments to the final budget include $283,796 in salary savings from the district's early retirement program and $60,183 is savings from a reduction in tuition payments to approved private schools.

            The adjustments also include an additional $122,108 in spending for early retirement plan benefits and contractual retirement payments and $73,000 to cover the increased need for professional services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing as well as substitute and security services.

            Costs related to instruction comprise 63 percent of the budget ($37.94 million); support services account for about 29 percent ($17.27 million).

            In other news, the board discussed an action item involving an incentive compensation package for Superintendent Alexis McGloin. But they did not vote on it.

            Hofkin initially asked to table the item, citing the need for a discussion to examine the evaluations. However, that motion received only three votes. Elliot requested that the members review the package prior to voting on it.

            Gehman made a motion to set the bonus at $5,000 pending a review of McGloin's evaluation.  This issue was supposed to be resolved in October, according to the member.

            "We are playing catchup," Gehman said.

            The members recessed to go into a brief executive session to discuss the issue. They voted unanimously to table the item until Thursday's workshop meeting.






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