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Finance Committee Recommends Tax Increase for QCSB
Written by Jennifer Frieze, Correspondent
2022-06-01

            The finance committee of the Quakertown Community School Board is recommending a two percent tax increase for the 2022-2023 final budget. At Tuesday night's meeting, the finance committee submitted a report for the board to review and discuss. The board also provided suggestions for the budget.

            Currently, the millage rate is 168.83. The new rate, if approved, would be 172.21. The average assessed value of the QCSD homestead/farmstead is $26,350. A tax increase for a typical homestead/farmstead would be $89.06.

            The beginning deficit of $3,668,624 was based on a four percent tax increase. The decrease in the current real estate tax represents the decrease from a four percent tax increase to either a two percent or one percent tax increase. The original budget included both revenue and expenditure of $1 million for any possible unexpected grant funding or spending. Upon further review, the finance committee reduced both amounts by $675,000. The committee decided that $325,000 is an adequate amount.

            However, there was some confusion about when the suggestions would be discussed. The suggestions given by the board were not discussed at length during the finance committee meeting. Board member Ron Jackson made mention of this and stated that he thought that the meeting on May 31 was to discuss suggestions and the budget that was to be voted on at the June 9th meeting.

            The school board provided the finance committee with suggestions to cut budget costs. Those given by the board were seen as long-range suggestions for future budgets, not necessarily for the 2022-2023 budget.

            A suggestion list was put on the agenda for public viewing.

One proposal was a return to the three-tiered busing system. This would reduce the cost of busing and remediate bus driver shortages and route cancellation.  This could save the district between $180,000 and $240,000

            Another suggestion was dropping elective courses at the high school and middle school and furloughing teachers. This could save approximately $562,886.

            Some administrative positions could be eliminated. The administration would provide a list to the board for consideration. This could conserve between $40,792 and $152,151 per budget year.

            Property on Pumping Station Road could be sold and the funds used to build a baseball field. The district would then purchase another lot for future needs. The district is in the process of getting appraisals for the Pumping Station Road property and has been in contact with multiple builders interested in possibly purchasing the property. Superintendent Dr. William Harner has reached out to Milford Township regarding the possible purchase of a new lot for future needs. Baseball field discussions are ongoing.

            The district could explore alternative energy sources, both for buses and buildings. For example, improve energy efficiencies by installing LED lighting everywhere. The tech school did this with 100% grant reimbursements last year.

            Another proposal is to create an itemized bills list that tracks spending more closely than the system currently used. It was also suggested that the trigger amount for board approval should be set at $7,500 for any purchase. This allows the board to have greater input on budgetary items.

            School lunches could be raised by 50 cents. This would bring costs to $2.80 per lunch. This is still under what other local districts are charging. Lunch prices were already submitted and approved by the PA Department of Education. However, new prices can be resubmitted for approval if the board wants to make changes. This would not directly impact the general fund budget.

            Another thought is to spread out the money owed to the borough for renovations to Memorial Stadium over a number of years - $100,000 per year for five years. Spreading it over two years could set aside $250,000 to $400,000.

            Several other suggestions were on the list.

            The board stressed that these are just ideas to be discussed.  Board President Jonathan Kern stated that the budget plan will be more strategic and the items will be discussed at multiple finance and board meetings. The final budget will be voted on at the June 9th school board meeting. All documents pertaining to the budget are available for the public to review.

            In another discussion, the board voted, 6-1, to approve an hourly rate increase for district maintenance, $3 per hour, and building leaders, $2 per hour.

            The members hope that a pay increase will keep quality people in these very important positions. Board Member Diane Richino explained that these are very important positions that keep the buildings open, maintained and running.

            "Well worth the investment to keep the team intact," she said.

            The increase will be effective immediately.

            During public comment, David O'Donnell from Richland Township expressed his budget concerns. He stated that it was a disservice to residents that the budget suggestions were a "read-only" and not discussed at the meeting. He also said that the proposed budget was discussed "ad nauseam" at the last few meetings.

            "Deliberation should happen in a public forum because it's our tax dollars," he said.


 

 

 

 

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