Elizabethtown Area Board Informally Supports 3% Tax Increase, Considers Smaller | Community News
When: Elizabethtown Area School Board meeting, April 26th.
What happened: The board discussed the proposed budget of $73.04 million for the 2022-23 school year. Currently, the proposed budget includes a 3% property tax increase. Changes could still be made to the final budget that the board plans to adopt at the June 14 meeting.
Consensus: The board did an informal poll on whether to continue with the 3% increase before voting at the May 10 workshop meeting to announce the final proposed budget. Five board members were in favor of keeping the 3% increase: Chairman Terry Seiders, James Read, Karen Sweigart, Craig Hummer and Caroline Lalvani. Three were against: Vice President Michael Martin and Stephen and Danielle Lindemuth. James Emery was absent. Martin had previously asked the administration to find $1 million in budget cuts to avoid a property tax hike, but the board decided against any cuts at the March 22 meeting.
Alternate increase: The Lindemuths suggested a tax increase of 2% instead of 3%. Danielle Lindemuth highlighted community feedback on a high tax burden and savings from the recent decision to close Rheems and Mill Road Elementary Schools.
Quoteable: “If we’re able to do something for our community, I think that would go a long way in helping our older population to be able to afford it…but even our younger population, we all feel that pinch,” Danielle Lindemuth mentioned. .
Arguments for 3%: Hummer noted that the proposed 3% tax increase is well below the 4.3% increase allowed by the district’s Act 1 index, a tax cap assigned by the Department of Education in the state. Hummer also argued that the district’s five-year financial plan, which calls for a 3% annual tax increase, would provide savings for the planned renovation of the high school/middle school complex. He also pointed to rising mandatory costs resulting from employee pension contributions, cyber charter schools and special education, coupled with a lack of state funding.
Quoteable: “These are mandatory items that we have to fund that unfortunately fall on the local taxpayer,” Hummer said. “We need state help. We’ve been asking forever and we’ve gotten nowhere,” he said later in the discussion, drawing applause.
Budget details: The proposed budget of $73.04 million is about $1.4 million more than the $71.6 million budget presented on March 22. But this latest update provided by Dan Forry, director of finance and operations, showed that $1.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds were to be used for one-year staff positions, including including Reading Specialists and Mathematics Stakeholders, as presented at the April 12 meeting. Health care costs have also increased.
Average increase: According to Forry, a 3% increase in taxes would raise the mileage to 18.6089, resulting in a tax bill of $3,349.60 – an increase of $97.56 – for the owner of a homestead of a median estimated value of $180,000.
Restructuring: With the elementary school consolidations, several positions are transferred, as detailed in the approved personnel report. Administrative realignments include the appointment of Jacques Viau, now Principal of Rheems, as Principal of Bear Creek School; Mike Pericci, now Head of Mill Road, as Student Support Coordinator; and Nate Frank, now director of Bear Creek, as coordinator of curriculum and federal programs. These last two positions represent new roles and responsibilities, but the number of directors remains the same, at 22, said district spokesman Troy Portser. In addition, Richard Toth, Director of Human Resources and Safety/Security Coordinator, is resigning effective May 5. Toth said before the meeting that he held a coordinator position with UPS in Middletown.