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NL adopts budget spending plan with 3% increase

Published June 12. 2019 12:32PM

Residents who live in the Northern Lehigh School District will see a 3 percent increase in their property taxes next year.

By a unanimous measure, the school board on Monday adopted the $35,714,360 general fund budget for the 2019-2020 school year.

The spending plan calls for a 22.51 millage rate for Lehigh County and a 66.01 millage rate for Northampton County.

Sherry Molitoris, co-director of business affairs/human resources, said the district will also utilize $1.5 million of its fund balance, which along with a $178,191 increase in Public School Employees Retirement System costs, makes up the $1.7 million shortfall.

Molitoris said the budget includes one-time purchases for technology upgrades, high school science lab construction and furniture, which total $1,035,135.

She said total utilization of fund balance for next school year is $2,757,469.

Total expenses for the 2019-20 school year come in at $35,714,360, while total revenues are at $33,992,026.

Molitoris said that salaries and benefits make up 62 percent of the budget.

The district anticipates a $232,000 increase in the 2019-20 Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit budget due to increased enrollment of students with special needs. If additional students move into the district with increased needs, the district would need to utilize fund balance.

The transportation department shows a near $314,000 increase as the result of additional runs due to outplacement of students with special needs and disciplinary placements, transportation of homeless students, and increased fuel costs.

The technology department is expected to increase by over $58,000 due to a rise in leasing costs, as well as an increased cost for bandwidth at Slatington and Peters elementary schools.

Other driving factors are the 2018-19 outplacements increased by $109,000, which resulted in additional increased cost for students with special needs, and an increase due to outplacements for disciplinary issues; an increased cost of $100,000 for the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute based on a five-year student enrollment average; and a $390,000 rise in the cost for cyber charter school ($385,000 increase) and brick-and-mortar charter school ($5,000 increase) tuition.

At 3 percent, the annual tax increase on a median assessed home for Lehigh County is $85, and for Northampton County $96.

The median assessed value for Lehigh County is $148,400, while the median assessed value for Northampton County is $45,800. The new median assessed values came out May 1.

The district has agreed to spend from the fund balance $540,000 on high school science rooms/labs; expects to spend $175,000 for six classroom sets of furniture for the high school science rooms; and about $320,000 for network switches and an undetermined amount on classroom tile floors at the middle school. The district is in the process of getting quotes for the floors.

The district also has other long-term projects mapped out in the years to come.

Look folks, the way we do education? Well? We can no longer afford. It's not the schools, football fields, or even bus rides... it's teachers.
Salaries and benefits make up 62 percent of the budget, but that's not typical. Typically among all U.S. the slice is closer to 80%. The increased tax isn't so much for the kids, it's for the teachers... a part time job with mega benefits.

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