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Local News Article
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UPSD Approves Preliminary Budget with ‘Fluid’ Tax Increase
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            The proposed final budget for the upcoming school year, approved last week by the Upper Perkiomen School Board, calls for a 3.67 percent tax increase. However, that figure seems far from settled, based on several member comments during and after the May 11 regular meeting.

            Prior to approving an action item in support of a proposed $73.561 million budget, Member Keith McCarrick, a member of the district's finance committee, described the rate hike as "still fluid." He added that the members could reduce the figure "if we want to. It's just a matter of how we look at it."

            After the meeting two other members of the committee expressed hope the size of the tax hike could be minimized. Member Judith Maginnis said administrators are already examining it with the goal of reducing unnecessary expenses.

            Member Raeann Hofkin, who cast the lone vote opposing the measure, declined to answer a question about her decision. Instead, in a text message, she wrote that the members have 30 days to "tighten up" the budget.

            The members adopted the recommendation of the finance committee, which was similar to the suggestion made last month by former Business Administrator Dan Direso, that calls for a four percent millage increase. Board President Melanie Cunningham, who also chairs the committee, told the audience the proposal made her "very sad."

            At the rate included in the action item, the median property owner in Montgomery County would pay an additional $151.42. In Berks County, that figure is $116.13.

            The size of the proposed tax hike is necessary to cover the new contract with the Upper Perkiomen Education Association as well as the increased costs of goods and services, increases in budgets to support students and no reductions or cuts to any programs, according to information provided earlier this month by district spokesperson Alexis Jenofsky.

            After a previous meeting, Direso described his proposed rate of increase as a balance that allows the district to cover its increased instructional expenses while minimizing the need to utilize fund balance to cover a projected $1.645 million deficit. Direso previously told the members that a 2.34 percent tax increase is needed to cover the new contract with the teachers union.

            Member Mike Elliott encouraged the public to "weigh in" on the details of the proposed final budget.

            Cunningham said the Finance Committee will take one final look at the budget during its next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 12, three days before the full board is expected to ratify the final budget as well as the Homestead/Farmstead exclusions on June 15.

            This is just us approaching this, preliminarily, for right now," Elliott said prior to the vote. "It's just to push everything forward."

            The members voted to approve an action item to send revised tax notices to four property owners in the Stillwater development. The notices will allow the owners until June 30 to pay the discounted rate.

            Three of the notices cover tax bills from 2021. The other applies during 2022. The district is not legally obligated to take this action, according to Solicitor Kyle Somers.

            Cunningham claimed the current property owners did not receive their tax bills for those years. She said they were inadvertently sent to the developer.

            Less than $300 is being sought from all four properties. Administrators are working on creating a similar motion for additional properties by the end of June.

            Somers announced that the board met in executive session immediately prior to the meeting to discuss items of personnel related to two administrative employees and issues of safety and security.






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