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Small increase in property taxes expected

Published February 09. 2010 05:00PM

Residents in the Northern Lehigh School District can expect to see a minimal increase in their property taxes this year.

Business manager Jeremy Melber told the school board on Monday that he anticipates the 2010-11 budget will result in a "very minimal tax increase up front."

Melber said that while the state index is 2.9 percent, the district is allowed to go as high as a 4 percent, or 2.65 mill increase. However, he said he doesn't expect that to be the case.

"We will not exceed the number," Melber said. "We will not come close to that budget."

Melber said one of the more costly items the district is faced with is a $700,000 increase in its salary/benefits budget due to a 20 percent increase in health insurance costs.

However, Melber noted that last year, the district was able to put $1.3 million back into its fund balance. Of that, $500,000 was for retirement costs, $450,000 for health insurance costs, and $250,000 for electricity costs.

Melber said he should be able to piece together a rough preliminary budget in time for next month's board meeting.

"A lot of it will depend on the governor's budget, and how much we'll see in basic education subsidies from the state," he said. "We'll set up some kind of long range plan to offset spikes we're seeing in electricity, health insurance, and the retirement rate."

Last year, the board adopted a $28,958,961 budget that called for a .6 mill, or .96 percent, increase that raised the millage rate from 62.273 to 62.873 mills in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, paid $3,144 in property taxes to the district this year, $30 more than the previous year's $3,114 rate.

The district was able to cut $25,000 out of that budget through the elimination of a realty transfer tax, and $75,000 from interest income.

That increase paled in comparison to the prior year's budget, which called for a 1.98 mill, or 3.3 percent, increase in both counties.

Also on Monday, the board on a 7-0 vote approved a resolution for the 2010-11 Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit Operational and Program Services budget. Directors Mathias Green and Lauren Ganser were absent.

Total expenditures equal $2,388,072, which represents a 7.89 percent, or, $174,643 increase, over the 2009-10 budget. Northern Lehigh's share is proposed to be $19,714, which would represent an increase of $556 from the 2009-10 budget.

In an unrelated matter, Superintendent Michael Michaels announced that last week was National School Counseling Week.

Michaels gave a favorable review of the district's guidance counselors.

"They do a wonderful job, and are excellent individuals," Michaels said. "Our counselors are outstanding; they're doing much more than other districts."

Finally, Michaels said that the board will likely hold its August board meeting at the middle school due to the upcoming renovation project at Slatington Elementary.

However, Michaels noted that was contingent upon the building project staying on its current track.

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