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Palmerton preliminary budget could require a 2-percent tax hike

Published January 14. 2011 05:00PM

Residents in the Palmerton Area School District could see just shy of a 2 percent increase in their property tax rates this year.

That was the recommendation of the school board's Budget and Finance Committee on Thursday, which agreed to advertise the 2011-12 preliminary budget.

However, Superintendent Carol Boyce cautioned that since the budget is preliminary, none of the figures are etched in stone.

"We reviewed the total package, and determined that the board will authorize the advertising of the preliminary budget and the fact that we will apply for exceptions," Boyce said. "That doesn't mean that we will use them, but it's just to give us the flexibility to use them if we want to or need to."

Boyce said that there will be a resolution to advertise the preliminary budget when the board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"There will be some increase; we're looking at under a 2 percent increase in the budget package," she said. "Everybody has been very, very frugal in their requests, keeping in mind the balance we have to maintain between the needs of the educational program and the concerns of the taxpayers."

Boyce added that it was the district's task to "provide for our young people and give them the very best that we can afford, and that's the balancing act."

"One of the major unknowns is state funding, because I believe the new governor's budget is not due out until the middle of March," she said. "Given the fact that he is new, there is a month's grace period the first year that he's in office."

Boyce said that only serves to further complicate matters.

"The figures will be later this year, and that always creates the unknown for longer a period of time," she said. "Until we know what we can depend upon in the form of state money and federal money, it's really difficult to do a final budget package."

Last month, the committee met with each of the district's department heads in a series of two meetings in its attempt to craft this year's spending plan.

The committee will again meet at a date to be determined to further discussion on the budget, Boyce said.

Last year, homeowners saw a 3.9 percent, or 1.64-mill increase, in their property tax rates after the board in June approved the budget on a 5-4 vote.

That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, which was assessed at $50,000, paid $2,182 in property taxes to the district, $82 more than the $2,100 rate they paid in 2009-10.

In that school year, the board passed a budget with a 2.44 percent, or 1 mill increase that resulted in a $50 increase for residents with the same home value.

Before that, the last time the district raised property taxes was in the 2007-08 school year, when it passed a budget with a 2.5 percent increase.

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