The Northampton School Board met Monday, June 10 with a final budget presentation and discussion.

To begin, Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik noted that the proposed final budget does not include any funds set aside for the potential Moore Elementary School renovations if the board decides to move forward with keeping Moore Elementary School open in the future.

Kovalchik also noted that the technology position was removed from the budget, which will reduce district expenditures by $80,000.

Then, Business Administrator Craig Neiman provided some updates to the proposed budget since last month’s presentation, which included changes such as two special education teachers and a special education aide to be funded by ACCESS rather than coming out of the district’s pocket for a $300,000 increase in budgeted federal revenue, two social workers now also being funded by a state grant that will increase state revenue by $220,000 and moving technology devices to leases rather than purchasing them outright to reduce expenditures by $600,000.

These changes to the budget now reflect a total district revenue of $129.7 million, which is a $3.4 million or 2.7% increase from the 2023-24 school year, as well as a total district expenditure prediction of $131.9 million, which is also a $3.4 million or 2.7% increase from the previous school year.

Due to a higher cost of expenditures than revenue, the district faces a $2,194,437 budget deficit. Additionally, the ending fund balance amount is only 4.8% of budgeted expenditures, which is lower than the district policy threshold of 5 to 8%.

Neiman provided a breakdown of several proposed tax increases to accommodate the deficit that included: no tax increase, which would leave the estimated remaining fund balance at $15,866,268; a 1% tax increase would generate $725,895 and would leave the estimated remaining fund balance at $16,592,163 with $1,468,542 in additional fund use required to cover the deficit; a 2% tax increase would generate $1,459,530 and would leave the estimated remaining fund balance at $17,325,798 with $734,907 in additional fund use required to cover the deficit; and a 3% tax increase would generate $2,194,437 and would leave the estimated remaining fund balance at $18,060,705 with no fund balance use required to cover the deficit.

Vice President Kristin Soldridge proposed not increasing budgeted expenditures for the superintendent’s office, principal’s office, athletics office and coach salaries from the previous school year that were represented in the proposed final budget to help reduce the fund balance deficit.

However, Neiman clarified that the cost of many items in the budget are not controlled by the district and are rather provided by the state.

Soldridge also proposed reducing the $270,000 in funds budgeted for Northampton Area Public Library to $150,000, opining that the public library is not the district’s responsibility. Director Josh Harris voiced his support for reducing the library’s budgeted funds.

President Doug Vaughn and Director John Becker asserted that they could not see cutting the library’s budget.

During budget discussion, Vaughn stated his support for a 3% tax increase due to the upcoming Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School expansion, which, like the potential Moore Elementary School renovations, is not accounted for or represented in the final budget.

Other suggestions included Becker’s and Director Ross Makary’s support of a 2% tax increase, whereas Harris proposed a 1% tax increase in addition to a 5% or $300,000 budget cut and a $300,000 staff reduction. However, both suggestions were unpopular by the remaining board members.

During the board’s vote on the final proposed budget, Director Kim Bretzik made the motion to adopt the final budget with a 1% tax increase.

The motion passed in a 5-3 vote with Bretzik, Soldridge, Harris, Becker and Director Michael Baird voting yes to the 1% tax increase, and Vaughn, Makary and Director Brian McCulloch voting against the motion.

Per Neiman’s presentation, a 1% tax increase for the average assessed homestead’s tax bill will go from the current 55.71 mills to 56.27, with the average homeowner’s tax bill going up approximately $6.25 a year or 0.18%, which is a monthly increase of $0.52. These figures also increase the average assessed homestead’s real estate tax from $3,509.73 to $3,544.94, the homestead exclusion from $142.89 to $171.85 and the net real estate tax at face value from $3,366.84 to $3,373.09.

The next Northampton School Board meeting will be held on Monday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northampton Area High School auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave.

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