For the first time in a half a dozen years, residents living in the Delaware Valley School District may have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for an increase in school taxes, it was announced at the monthly school board meeting on May 16. The proposed final 2013-2014 budget of $70,610,660 is 2.3% above the current budget, and will translate into an average tax increase of $66 per household.
In a 5-3 vote, the board supported the proposed final budget, with the most vociferous objection coming from board member Jessica Decker, who asked the board to dip into the over two million in reserves, citing the economic hardships of the area, including an unemployment rate just over 12%.
“We’re sitting on $2.3 million in unspent funds,” she said, adding that a tax increase may lead some households and businesses to “financial failure.”
School board president Bill Greenlaw referred to the six-year tax freeze as unprecedented, further stating that the tax increase is negligible—about $1.50 a week per household; and responding to a point Decker made said that such an increase would most probably not cause foreclosures area-wide.
Teachers, whose salaries have been frozen since the 2011-12 school year, will enjoy a salary increase of $1,905 per teacher in the upcoming school year, noted superintendent John J. Bell. He further stated that salaries and benefits make up 76% of the budget.
The district, which has been ranked well for academic excellence by sources including the Pittsburgh Business Times and U.S. News and World Report, is slated to add five new professionals: an English, social studies, sixth grade and two elementary school teachers, while eliminating one instructional assistant.
Also, two social workers, a guidance counselor, and a physical education teacher will also be added. The funds that paid the salary for a retiring high school French teacher will be earmarked for a business teacher.
Bell made two references to President Barack Obama, claiming that Obama has driven health care costs up 9%. He said it’s “difficult to predict the revenue from Washington,” adding that the last year’s figure of $675,000 is anything but a sure deal for the upcoming year. He said, “It may hold up, it may be zero, or it may fall somewhere in between.” Couple that with the fact that that state has offered “52 different proposed plans” and it’s a guessing game how the funding from the government will play out.
Bell referred to promises made from Harrisburg in November that the state’s school budget would be a priority in January, which, in fact, have not materialized.
Greenlaw said that the funding in the future is anybody’s guess and that for a school district rated one of the best in the country “we want to get the biggest bang for our buck.”
At the next meeting the board will vote on the budget again, which will be deemed the final budget.