The Boyertown School Board approved a final budget of nearly $101 million, bringing an average tax increase of 2.55 percent to those living in the district.
The $100,979,218 budget was adopted on Tuesday night by a vote of 6-3. Board members Paul Stengle, Robert Caso and Christine Neiman casted the dissenting votes.
While the average increase lies below the district’s Act 1 Index of 2.6 percent, the Berks County increase of .87 mills (3.66 percent) exceeds the index. Montgomery County will see an increase of .30 mills (1.31 percent).
Though Montgomery County is seeing the most growth, Berks County sees the increase as a result of the state mandated equalization assessment based on each county’s State Tax Equalization Board market value. This process is required due to the fact that the district serves multiple counties.
As a result of Berks County’s increase in relation to the index--$45,293 in exceptions is needed. According to Szablowski, the district is eligible for a retirement contribution exception.
The majority of the increase, according to Business Administrator David Szablowski, comes from rising healthcare and retirement contribution costs.
Szablowski stated that Boyertown’s millage rate is low in comparison to other Berks and Montgomery County schools.
“The last five years we’ve been trying to tighten our belt to prepare for these tough years,” said Szablowski, adding that the rates of PSERS (Public School Employees’ Retirement System) have increased and will continue to do so. “The next couple of years are going to be tight.”
The key budget factors as listed by the district include: the district’s comprehensive plan, professional education, the technology plan, the special education plan, balance of spending vs. quality education and themes of high performing schools.
“Seventy-five percent is wages and benefits; we are people driven,” said Szablowski in reference to the budget. He also stated that the cost of healthcare has risen by 7 percent.
He stated that the district is keeping their program strong by not cutting any programs and adding additional support staff. Seven Boyertown teachers announced their retirement this year. There will be six new professional staff added for the 2014-2015 year made possible by funding changes. Seven Lit First teachers currently funded by the General Fund will be moved to block grant funding. The new professionals added will be: one Junior High East teacher, 1.5 bubble teachers, and 3.5 long-term substitutes.
Prior to the vote, each board member took the opportunity to speak about their decision and the process leading up to it.
Caso spoke about how the process is becoming more and more difficult each year, and then referred to the new budget as a more expensive version of the current budget. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to choices and leadership. We cannot continue doing things the same way and expect different results.”
“I’m not going to support this,” said Neiman, speaking about the budget and the current economy. She emphasized that staffing is something that can be controlled.
Board member Jill Dennin followed Neiman’s remarks by stating that she “whole-heartedly” supports the budget and could not see where cuts could have been made this year.
Superintendent Dr. Richard Faidley and board members Barbara Hartford and Stephen Elsier, among others, thanked Szablowski for the work done on budget following the adoption of the preliminary budget back in February.
The next meeting of the Boyertown School Board of Directors is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17, at 7 p.m. in the Education Center.