Draft bud­get plans tax in­crease

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

COLEBROOKDALE » With a 6-3 vote, the Boy­er­town Area School Board adopted a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal bud­get May 8 that would raise prop­erty taxes by 5.4 per­cent.

The mill­age would in­crease by 1.35 mills un­der the pro­posed $119 mil­lion bud­get, lead­ing to a tax rate in both the Montgomery and Berks county por­tions of the district of 25.37 mills.

For a home as­sessed at $100,000, that rep­re­sents an in­crease of $136, which school board mem­ber Jill Den­nin called “as pretty good deal” for a home with three chil­dren on which the district will spend

thou­sands of dol­lars each year.

She and board mem­ber Bran­don Foose both noted that the Boy­er­town district has see-sawed be­tween low tax hikes fol­lowed by higher ones to make up the rev­enue short­falls from the lower tax rate.

“You can’t have it all, a nice sta­dium, nice fields, nice mu­sic pro­grams and have zero tax hikes,” said Den­nin. “You can have less staff, larger class­rooms, or raise taxes to the in­fla­tion rate.”

The pro­posed bud­get not only raises taxes to the stateim­posed limit of 2.9 per­cent, but takes ad­van­tage of an “ex­cep­tion” al­lowed by the state, to raise taxes be­yond that in­dex to pay for ad­di­tional “spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion” costs, with­out seek­ing voter ap­proval.

But board mem­bers Clay Breece, Ruth Dierolf and Christine Neiman, who rep­re­sented the three votes against adopt­ing the bud­get, said not enough had been done to cut costs, and said many res­i­dents in the district can not af­ford the in­crease.

Say­ing he thought the district has “squan­dered money,” and that the pro­posed hike rep­re­sents the largest sin­gle in­crease since 2002, Breece said if the board con­tin­ues to raise taxes at this rate, “in five years, it will add $680” for the same res­i­dent with a home as­sessed at $100,000. “It re­ally is a mat­ter of math,” he said.

“I know there are con­stituents who can’t af­ford this,” said Neiman.

The bud­get seems es­sen­tially un­changed from the draft adopted in Fe­bru­ary, when even Breece and Dieolf voted in fa­vor of it.

Breece com­plained that the board had held too few bud­get meet­ings and more should have been done to look for cost sav­ings.

Board mem­ber Steve Elisier, who chairs the fi­nance com­mit­tee, said the district saved $208,000 by re-fi­nanc­ing some bonds, and that there were also sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings earned through re­tire­ments and lower health in­sur­ance costs.

The fi­nal bud­get will be adopted and June, and can be re­duced be­tween now and then, but not in­creased.

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