Tuesday, August 04, 2020


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UPSD Board Approves Preliminary Budget with Tax Hike
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Without debate, the Upper Perkiomen School Board voted last week to approve a 2020-21 preliminary budget with the smallest tax increase allowed. The members unanimously voted for a $66.057 million budget that maintains the same millage rate but includes a 3.48 percent tax hike.

            The increase is required due to a ratio determined by the State Tax Equalization Board, whose primary function is to determine the aggregate market value of taxable real property in each political subdivision and school district throughout Pennsylvania.

            In Montgomery County, the median assessed value for a property previously assessed at $128,880 will owe an additional $136.04. In Berks County, the median assessed value for a property previously assessed at $101,500 would owe an additional $107.14.

            The document calls for transferring $2.148 million from the district's fund balance to cover a deficit. During the May 7 regular meeting, hosted on Zoom, the members could have added up to 3.2 mills to the tax rate, as permitted by state law. However, they decided to maintain the current millage rate of 25.2278.

            Judith Maginnis, a member of the board's Finance Committee, expressed 100 percent agreement with its recommendation to avoid any additional tax increases. According to fellow member Keith McCarrick, the board needs to be fiscally conservative and fiscally conscious for the entire community.

            "We're trying to do our best," he said.

            According to Vice President Mike Elliot, now is the time for the board to act as safely as it possibly can. A lot of folks are suffering, he said.

            The budget is not final, according to council President Raeann Hofkin. The board's finance committee will continue to discuss the budget, according to Melanie Cunningham, a member of the board and committee chair.

            Since April 20, administrators worked to eliminate more than $3.7 million in projected expenses. On April 30, they presented the board's Facilities Committee with $1.355 million in cuts. They included $773,134 in department costs, $518,247 in staff costs and $63,397 from the building budget.

            Last week, prior to the vote, Sandra Kassel, the district's business administrator, identified additional potential savings of more than $305,000. During her presentation, Kassel said the school could save more than $232,000 by not replacing two retiring employees and by utilizing $73,000 in Title II money for class size reduction rather than for professional development.

            Administrators started the budget process for the upcoming school year with a significant deficit. Increases in contract services ($1.16 million), salaries ($1.045 million), debt service ($610,000), retirement ($418,000) and purchasing services account for the additional expenses.

            Revenue shortfalls related to COVID-19 accounted for a $1.2 million projected revenue gap. Kassel identified decreases in real estate transfer tax, EITC and interest earnings during the April 30 committee meeting.

            The board is expected to adopt the final budget on June 11. It will be available for public inspection on the district's website at www.upsd.org and at the Education Center, located at 2229 East Buck Road in Upper Hanover. According to Superintendent Allyn Roche, a copy will be accessible on a table inside the building's lobby.





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