The Northampton School Board met Monday, March 13 to hear the Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 General Operating Budget proposal for the 2023-2024 school year, the Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School 2023-2024 budget presentation, and to discuss the updated district budget.
First, Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 (CIU 20) Executive Director Christopher Wolfel presented the General Operating Budget (GOB) proposal for the 2023-2024 school year. CIU 20 provides educational, administrative, and technology services to 13 school districts spanning 1,200 miles. They provide important programs and services to children, especially those with special needs.
This school year, CIU 20 has provided special education for 556 students with autistic support, six students with hearing support, 215 students with life skills support, 62 students with multi-disabilities, 42 students with physical support, eight students with project SEARCH, and 76 students with transition services. They have provided related services for 5,884 students this year, and have also provided behavioral health services to 92 students for intensive behavioral health services, 337 students for outpatient programs, 334 students for therapeutic emotional support, 230 students for partial hospitalization, and 1,554 students for school attendance improvement.
Additionally, during the upcoming school year, CIU 20 will be providing a new internship opportunity for young adults with special needs at Wind Creek Resort in Bethlehem. Project SEARCH is a one-year transition program that will provide training and education leading to competitive employment for individuals aged 18 to 21 with disabilities that are entering or finishing their last year of high school.
The 2023-2024 GOB recommends a 3.97% or $152,225 overall budget increase for a total of $3,987,425, which breaks down to $2,300,155 for educational support services, $682,240 for curriculum and instructional services, $610,020 for human resources and research services, and $395,010 for instructional material services.
The current school year’s 2022-2023 GOB NASD contribution was $43,388.11. CIU 20 is requesting a 2.5% or $1,084.70 increase, bringing the 2023-2024 proposed NASD contribution to $44,472.81, which the board will vote on in the coming months.
Next, Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School (BAVTS) Executive Director Adam S. Lazarchak presented the 2023-2024 budget presentation, which includes a total budget of $14,356,746 with a 3.67% or $508,458 expenditure budget net increase.
The BAVTS proposed budget expenditures account for $5,852,637 for salaries, $4,568,854 for employee costs, $454,400 for utilities, $534,838 for professional services and insurance, $505,411 for general replacement and maintenance, $1,337,985 for supplies, texts, and software, $864,656 for capital, and $237,965 for other expenditures.
BAVTS is requesting a district contribution increase of 9.48% or $249,330 for a total district contribution of $2,878,422 for the 2023-2024 school year.
Lazarchak shared NASD’s three-year average of students enrolled in BAVTS is 312 per year and that BAVTS is now offering a veterinary technician assistant program, a social media marketing program, and is expanding the mechatronics program. BAVTS is also considering programs in clerical support, data analytics, supply chain management, automotive technology, health careers, and an aviation mechanics program.
Additionally, Lazarchak divulged that BAVTS is looking at a $20 million expansion plan due to growth in career and technical programming that has resulted in students being wait-listed to get into programs. The BAVTS board is considering a wing that would gain 150 seats, but this would only accommodate current growth and not future growth, so they are still discussing other possible plans and places of expansion.
Since districts will have to foot the bill for the addition, BAVTS is going to come up with three possible plans for districts to approve, but it is unclear how soon this will come to fruition.
In other business, Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik presented the updated 2023-2024 NASD preliminary General Fund Budget and anticipated capital improvements for the next five years.
The 2023-2024 updated budget expenditures total $127,629,019 and revenues total $125,732,444, which leaves a deficit of $1,896,575 that can be potentially pulled from the unassigned fund balance to offset costs if the school board does not choose to raise taxes.
Kovalchik shared four possible tax increase options for the board to choose from in the coming months regarding the $1,896,575 deficit. The board previously approved not to raise taxes above the Act 1 Index, which is 5.1%, so proposed increases range from 0% to 2%.
If the board opts to not increase taxes for the upcoming school year, the millage rate would remain at 55.71, generating $66,852,000 in revenue. If the board opts for a 1.01% tax increase, the millage rate will be 56.27, generating $67,524,000 in revenue (an increase of $672,000), which would impact average residential taxpayers by $35.28 annually. If the board opts for a 1.51% tax increase, the millage rate will be 56.55, generating $67,860,000 in revenue (an increase of $1,008,000), which would impact the average residential taxpayer by $52.92 annually. If the board opts for a 2% tax increase, the millage rate will be 56.83, generating $68,196,000 in revenue (an increase of $1,344,000), which would impact the average residential taxpayer by $70.56 annually.
Kovalchik also presented the district’s anticipated capital improvements over the course of the next five years. Top priority capital improvements totaling $2,790,000 over the course of the next three years include: AED replacement – $40,000; Laubach fence replacement – $20,000; high school auditorium upgrade – $600,000; high school brickwork repair – $125,000; stadium PA system – $50,000; high school gym audio system – $50,000; high school generator area guardrail replacement – $30,000; high school chiller replacement/gym and auditorium – $1,500,000; tennis court resurfacing – $25,000; and district wide BAS system upgrades (HVAC) – $350,000. Capital improvements totaling $2,360,000 that need to be addressed within the next three to five years include: stadium turf field replacement – $900,000; Siegfried windows – $300,000; maintenance parking lot – $700,000; George Wolf elevator upgrade – $50,000; replacement of five district vehicles – $250,000; and high school boilers – $160,000. However, this list does not include projects at the Franklin, Washington, Administration, and Moore buildings due to the proposed Route 329 elementary school and education center.
The Northampton School Board will vote on all proposed budgets and one of the four tax increase options in the coming months.