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Parkland Passes Budget With 3.8 Percent Tax Increase

The months-long process of developing the 2011-2012 budget was agonizing, superintendent said.

The Parkland school board unanimously approved a $138 million budget Tuesday night that raises taxes 3.8 percent, freezes administrators' salaries and cuts 60 teacher and staff positions, about half through retirements and resignations.

The district's millage will increase 1.46 mills, from 38.27 mills to 39.73 mills.

The average homeowner in the district (who has a property assessed at $76,814) will pay $112 more a year in taxes.  A projected property tax reduction from casino gaming money will offset that increase by about $105, the district said.

The school board adopted the budget after a months-long process that Superintendent Louise E. Donohue described as "agonizing." 

She said officials don't feel good about the cuts and the tax increase, but that both were "within reason" and allowed the district to continue delivering quality education to its students. 

Officials struggled with millions in dollars of lost revenue -- some $4 million from reduced commercial property assessments over three years and $1 million in lost state subsidies, Donohue said. While the district had expected state cuts, Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed cuts went much deeper than anticipated.

Since the state has yet to adopt its budget, Parkland officials do not yet know whether the district will fare better or worse than what the governor proposed. At this point, Donohue said, that would have an impact on future budgets.

Board member David Kennedy, who said he had been inundated with emails and phone calls over the budget, supported the budget though he too said he did not like having to pass a tax increase.

"This is the hardest budget I ever had to do," he said. "I don't think there was one rock that wasn't turned over to look for savings" without compromising educational quality and safety.

The district saved $2.6 million by eliminating the 60 positions, many through attrition. However, 29 people were laid off, according to information provided by the district. Those laid off included seven teaching assistants at Parkland High School, Springhouse Middle School and Schnecksville elementary school, three Title I remediation aides at Cetronia and Fogelsville elementary schools, nine aides in the district remedial program at Orefield and Springhouse middle schools and 10 part-time custodians at several buildings.

The district saved $250,000 with the administrators' pay freeze.

The district also used $8.5 million from the fund balance, which is undesignated accumulated revenue, to balance the 2011-2012 budget.

"This is a responsible budget," said school board member Roberta Marcus. She said it respects taxpayers and maintains the district's educational quality.

The millage increase is less than what was initially put forth in the district's preliminary budget, when school officials projected an increase of 1.64 mills, or a 4 percent tax hike.

Officials also pointed out that despite the 3.8 percent increase in millage for the next school year, expenditures in the 2011-2012 budget will increase only 1.65 percent over the previous school year. They credited the spending cuts, including the administrators' salary freeze and job eliminations, as well as changes in how the district buys electricity and petroleum.

Parkland was only allowed by law to raise taxes by 1.4 percent, but received permission from the state, or special exceptions, to raise taxes beyond the state index because of costs outside of their control, such as higher special education costs and payments to the state employees’ pension fund.

Approving the 2011-2012 budget were board President Jayne Bartlett, and board members Marcus, Kennedy, Lisa Adams, Barry Long, Robert Bold, Debra Evans, Robert Cohen and Mark Hanichak.

The Punisher June 22, 2011 at 12:26 PM
"Parkland was only allowed by law to raise taxes by 1.4 percent, but received permission from the state, or special exceptions, to raise taxes beyond the state index because of costs outside of their control, such as higher special education costs and payments to the state employees’ pension fund." =============================== I live on a fixed income from Social Security and some money left to me from my dead parents. I haven't received a COLA in THREE YEARS...However I have to pay MORE in taxes to support "payments to the state employees' pension fund"??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Liberals could care less for us SENIORS and just suck us dry with tax increases....OUR BILLS WENT UP TOO WHILE OUR HOME VALUES WENT DOWN, BUT WE GET NOTHING...... >>>>>>>>>>>a message to seniors from the liberals is to "DIE QUICKLY" ...They DO NOT care for anyone but themselves......
Frank June 22, 2011 at 02:09 PM
You've got it wrong, Punisher. It's the CONSERVATIVES that could care less about seniors.
voice of reason June 22, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Once Dale Daubert and David Jaindl get their 100+/- homes built on the Rutz Farm along Walbert Avenue adding about 200 children to the school district watch the taxes rise to accommodate further expansion of the facilities. Daubert and his cronies on the board are short sighted and lack the vision for the future. It is bad enough that the School District raises our taxes on an almost yearly basis but now Daubert and Co are eating into the township rainy day fund to not have to raise taxes in an election year without examining the budget line by line. Ask Daubert about the issues, taxes and development vs school children and he is confrontational without giving facts. Time to clean house as far as the South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners is concerned for the well being of the residents.
Frank June 22, 2011 at 04:20 PM
You're absolutely correct, Malone. While some residents, as well as the commissioners think more homes equals more tax dollars, it has just the opposite effect on the township. More homes equals more children and thus more money is needed for all the added children placed in the school district. This Rutz Farm deal is BAD NEWS for SWT.

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