The Northampton School Board met Monday, May 13 with a lengthy budget discussion. 

A presentation for the proposed 2024-2025 general fund budget by Business Administrator Craig Neiman included a property tax reduction for homesteads and farmsteads via gaming revenue per the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006 in the amount of $2,222,915, which represents a $372,964 increase for 2023. This will lower 12,871 eligible homesteads and 74 eligible farmsteads’ 2024 property tax bills by $171.85 and represents a $28.96 increase from 2023 and a $58.24 increase since 2021.

The proposed budget accounts for $129.2 million in total revenue, which is a 2.3% increase from the 2023-2024 budget that generated a total of $126.3 million during the previous school year.

Expenditures will also increase by 3.2% from $128.4 million to $132.5 million from the previous school year. The estimated net revenue and expenditures puts the proposed budget at a $3.4 million deficit.

According to the Government Finance Officers Association, school districts should maintain a fund balance of no less than two months of general fund operating expenditures, which would total $22 million for the district.

However, with the $3.4 million deficit, the district estimates an ending fund balance for June 30, 2025 at $14.7 million and because the district strives to maintain an unassigned general fund balance between 5% and 8% of budgeted expenditures for each fiscal year, the board must pursue various options to increase revenues and decrease expenditures if it falls below 5%.

Three suggested options included leasing technology devices, two special education teachers and aide being funded by ACCESS, two social workers being grant funded, eliminating the new technology position and cutting department and building budgets by 10%.

Potential building and department cuts to achieve a 10% reduction could include: elimination of middle school athletics, which impacts approximately 230 students and 18 paid coaches for $120,000 in savings; reduction in new library content, which includes a $3,000 reduction for elementary schools and a $10,000 for the middle and high schools for $32,000 in savings; reduction of instructional supplies for $50,000 in savings; reduction of art and music supplies, which includes a $1,250 reduction for elementary schools and $10,000 for the middle and high schools for $25,000 in savings; reduction of school-wide positive behavioral support programs for $25,000 in savings; reduction of professional development opportunities for $25,000 in savings; elimination of substitute custodians, which impacts nine staff members and will delay deep cleaning for $75,000 in savings; elimination of outdoor field treatment programs for $10,000 in savings; and leaving two positions open after retirements and resignations, which would result in higher class sizes at the secondary level for $240,000 in savings.

Additionally, it was noted that the tax increase options presented do not consider the ongoing operation of Moore Elementary School and that if the board votes for the school to remain open, the administration recommends a multi-year taxing strategy to generate funds.

A proposed 1% tax increase was suggested by the administration, which would put the unassigned fund balance percentage over 5% for each of the proposed options, generate $725,895 in revenue, increase millage by 0.56, require $2,661,042 in additional fund balance use and increase the average annual tax bill by $35.21 for the 2024 average assessed $63,000 home.

During a straw poll, board members voted on their tax increase preference for the upcoming final budget. Vice President Kristin Soldridge and Director Brian McCulloch asserted their stance on not increasing taxes, whereas Director Kim Bretzik and Director Josh Harris asserted preference for a 0.5% tax increase, which would generate $361,815 in revenue, increase millage by 0.28, require $3,025,121 in additional fund balance use and increase the average annual tax bill by $17.55. However, Bretzik’s motion for a 0.5% increase did not receive enough support to pass.

Director Michael Baird then made a motion for a 1% tax increase, which resulted in a 4-4 tie with Baird, Vaugh, Director Ross Makary and Director John Becker supporting the 1% tax increase and Bretzik, Harris, Soldridge and McCulloch opposing the 1% tax increase.

Due to the tie, Solicitor John E. Freund III expressed that a 4-4 vote still passes for budget posting purposes, although if the vote were to remain tied for the final budget adoption, the solicitor would provide the tie breaking vote.

The district will not be locked into any particular tax rate until the final budget vote at next month’s meeting.

Following the presentation, the board unanimously approved the $132,542,965 proposed budget and authorized the administration to advertise the proposed budget before its final approval in June.

The next Northampton School Board meeting will be held on Monday, June 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northampton Area High School auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave.


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