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No tax increase for Northern Lehigh residents

Published April 11. 2012 05:01PM

Another year of prudent fiscal responsibility should bode well for residents who live in the Northern Lehigh School District.

The school board, on an 8-0 vote on Tuesday, agreed to adopt the proposed 2012-13 general fund budget with no tax increase. Director Donna Kulp was absent.

Sherri Molitoris, co-director of business affairs/human resources, announced that next year's $28,106,782 budget calls for a zero-mill increase.

If the board were to approve that budget, it would leave the property tax rate unchanged at 64.37 mills in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

That would mean a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, would again pay $3,219 in property taxes to the district next year.

Molitoris said the board remains on track to grant final adoption of the budget in June.

Afterward, Superintendent Michael Michaels, as well as several board members, weighed in on the budget.

Michaels said that while he's pleased with the fact that the budget won't raise taxes, he noted that the entire process is not yet complete.

"We're constantly fine-tuning," Michaels said. "We're looking at areas we can add to, and delete."

Michaels added that the district wants to continue to be on the cutting edge, but in a fiscally prudent manner.

"It's very difficult in these economic times to have a budget with a zero-mill increase," he said. "I'm very proud of our teachers, administrators, and board, and believe it's a fair budget that meets the needs of our students."

Michaels added that Molitoris, as well as Rhonda Frantz, co-director of business affairs/employee payroll and benefits, have been doing a "valiant job with the budget."

"They're making a very conservative budget," he said. "They've done a great job of being conservative of what's coming in, and do a very great job of (watching) what's going out."

Director Gregory Williams noted that while this will mark back-to-back years that the district was able to stave off a tax increase, he cautioned that future boards don't figure to have the same luxury.

"This will be another year doing without a tax increase, which is a wonderful thing for this community," Williams said. "If things are going to continue as they are, this is not going to be able to continue."

Director Mathias Green, who thanked the administration for its work, alluded to the lack of funding the district continues to receive from the state.

"We're not getting as much money from the government," Green said. "It's falling back on the local people, and that's not fair."

In December, the board agreed to adopt a resolution that said it would not raise taxes above the Act 1 index in the 2012-13 school year.

That decision means the district will leave the index at 1.7-percent, whereby the adjusted index is 2.3-percent.

In June, the board adopted this year's $28,787,461 budget. That meant a person with a home valued at $100,000, and assessed at $50,000, again paid $3,219 in property taxes to the district this year.

The district was able to offset a potential $1.5 million shortfall in the 2011-12 budget with the creation of an early retirement incentive plan that saw 14 teachers agree to be included in the plan.

The board agreed to adopt the plan for all eligible professional employees, on a voluntary basis, for the 2010-11 school year. The program asked those high-end teachers who account for about $111,000 per position to retire and not be replaced, which resulted in a savings of over $1 million in the district's fund balance and long-range plan.

The offer was a one-time only program that enabled teachers in the district to submit a letter in writing that said they would retire from the district.

Also on Tuesday, the board agreed to authorize the secretary to publish a legal advertisement notifying every resident or inhabitant within the territorial limits of the school district attaining 18 years of age, and every resident or inhabitant in the district to notify the proper Per Capital Tax Enumerator within 12 months of his or her becoming a resident or inhabitant, in accordance with the School Laws of Pennsylvania, Section 680, as amended June 16, 1972, Act 138.

The assessors to contact include: Borough of Walnutport, Annette Lacko, borough secretary, Walnutport Borough Building, 417 Lincoln Ave., Walnutport, PA 18088 (610) 767-1322; Washington Township, JoAnn Ahner, township secretary, Washington Township Municipal Building, P.O. Box 27, Slatedale, PA 18079 (610) 767-8108; and Borough of Slatington, Joan Cheesbrough, assistant secretary, 125 South Walnut St., Slatington, PA 18080 (610) 767-2131.

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