BOYERTOWN >> The Boyertown Area School Board unanimously approved a $111.1 million preliminary budget for the 2016-17 school year and will put into effect a uniform tax rate for Berks and Montgomery counties to fund the spending plan.
This year’s budget proposal included two rate options for the preliminary real estate millage — market value or uniform. The district has been using the market value rate for the last 30 years.
Superintendent Richard Faidley referenced mandated pension and other negotiated obligations as the driving force behind budget increases. Based on the uniform rate, the counties would each see a 1.8-percent average increase with a total tax rate of 24.27 mills.
“We’ve went through every line of the budget that we can reduce,” said Faidley. “We’re hoping to have additional revenues that can be presented at next budget meeting. We feel we have looked at all critical areas and can’t cut anything else without affecting student education.”
Leading up to the official vote, the board expressed favoritism towards the uniform rate to make things equal between the counties.
“We are one school district,” said board member Paul Stengle. “I work in one, live in the other; consider it all home. Having one tax rate would be good for unification of the two counties.”
“Just because we did something for thirty years doesn’t make it right,” said board member Stephen Elsier, adding that he didn’t want to tie the hands of any future boards.
Board member Donna L. Usavage stated she thought the market value was better long term, but could support the majority.
“There’s no crystal ball,” said Jill A. Dennin, board president, prior to the official vote. “I can support the majority if it unites the counties.” She added that her original thought was to wait a year, but that the board had spoken.
While presenting the budget at Tuesday’s meeting, Chief Financial Officer David Szablowski stated that a majority of school districts that fall into multiple counties use the market value. He also expressed that if a change would be made now, from market value to uniform, it may be difficult to go back because the numbers would be “out-of-whack.”
The only motivation to “go back” to the market value, according to Szablowski, would be if re-assessments take place in one of the counties to cause a greater differential.
The final proposed budget must be adopted and made available for at least 30 days prior to the adoption. The final budget adoption is scheduled for Tuesday, June 14. The next Finance Committee meeting will be held on May 31 at 6 p.m.