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UPSD Committee Proposes Smaller Tax Hike
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Deliberations regarding the budget for the upcoming school year at tonight's Upper Perkiomen school board meeting will start with smaller tax increase than initially proposed. Ten days earlier, the board's Finance Committee reached a consensus to recommend a 5.37 percent tax increase for property owners for the 2024-25 school year, accounting for an additional $164.09.

            At that rate, the district would move $2.4666 million from its reserve fund to cover a deficit. Drew Bishop, its business manager identified that balance of the reserve fund as $5.5 million, according to the video from the meeting posted on the district's website.

            "Making this recommendation breaks my heart," said Melanie Cunningham, the board president and committee chair.

            According to Superintendent Allyn Roche, the key question for board members is how much fund balance they feel comfortable transferring. He told the committee that district is "as lean as it can be."

            "If you want us to [make cuts], we'll [do that]," Roche said. "I don't know how much pain there will be."

            On June 10, the committee spent the majority of its final meeting of 2023-24 examining cost saving options. The members also decided to cut two proposed positions: high school coach/MTSS coordinator position and a maintenance supervisor with a projected savings of $185,000.

            For approximately 90 minutes, they debated the consequences of potentially eliminating positions requested in next year's budget, removing 10 percent from the cost to complete building projects. Member Trina Schaarschmidt suggested trimming three percent from each department's budget.

            "Every other taxpayer is making cuts where they can," Schaarschmidt said. "I just wonder if somewhere in all of this, we can tighten our belts the same way we are asking taxpayers to do."

            Cunningham hypothetically asked school principals in the audience what a 10 percent budget cut in their buildings would entail. Stationary and ancillary transportation costs would be initially eliminated, according to their responses.

            The full board could come to a different conclusion during the final public meeting of the 2023-24 school year, according to Member Keith McCarrick. He directed his colleagues on the committee to expect a similar discussion during the meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the district's Education Center, located at 2229 East Buck Road in Upper Hanover.

            "We are paying for poor planning," McCarrick said during the meeting.

            Last month, the board voted to approve the proposed final budget for the 2024-25 school year with a 7.34 percent tax increase. The $80.981 million – includes an average tax increase for Montgomery County property owners of $297.48. A Berks County property owner would pay an additional $175.22, according to a presentation by Drew Bishop, the district's business administrator.

            During the committee meeting, Cunningham suggested eliminated three new proposed positions, including a special education supervisor, with a total estimated savings of $345,000. Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina warned the members that eliminating the special education supervisor and the high school coach/MTSS coordinator would inhibit the district's ability to monitor its special education students.

            "It could create an unstable condition," said Farina, who told the committee that two staff members currently oversee 600 special education students.

            According to the administrator, elimination of the high school coach/MTSS coordinator would limit the school's achievement level. Farina referenced its designation as a Targeted Support and Improvement school by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.






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