East Penn School Board gets first look at 2023-24 budget. Will it raise taxes?
EMMAUS, Pa. — East Penn School Board on Monday was told a tax increase may not be needed to balance the district's 2023-24 budget.
District Business Administrator Robert Saul presented a draft preliminary 2023-24 budget that shows a $7 million increase in projected expenditures, primarily driven by wage, benefits and service cost increases.
But the district's fund balance could be used to balance the budget, Saul said.
- East Penn Board of School Directors began the budgetary process for the next year
- Remaining budgetary reserve currently lets the preliminary budget stay balanced
- The board agreed not to increase taxes beyond the limit set by Act 1
The preliminary budget display began the process of constructing the 2023-24 budget in a meeting that also included a lengthy discussion on a student survey service.
The board agreed to not increase taxes beyond the index set by the state legislation known as Act 1. As it stands, any tax increase cannot exceed 0.9641 mills based on the real estate tax millage.
That doesn't mean taxes won't be raised up to that limit; the board just agreed to not surpass it.
More work to be done
Future meetings in the leadup to presentations of the final budget will feature more in-depth looks at specific aspects of budget development.
School board officials said that the presentation would be available for public viewing on the school's public document service website Tuesday.
The schedule for upcoming budget meetings is:
- Feb. 13: District revenue overview
- Feb. 27: District expenditure overview
- March 13: Presentation of the long-range fiscal and capital plan
- March 27, April 24: Priority presentations
- May 8: Presentation and adoption of the proposed final budget
- May 22: Presentation of budget updates and discussion of final budge
- June 12: Presentation and adoption of the final budget
"Some of the financial assumptions that will be shared this evening will certainly become more focused as we progress throughout this winter and spring, as well as as our revenues become more definitive," Superintendent Kristen Campbell said.
"The other point that's important to understand about our budget process is that we do strive to make it very collaborative."
The audited balance sheets for the 2021-22 school year show an increase in the fund balance from $17 million to $23.5 million. It originally was budgeted to be a slight reduction because of Elementary and Secondary School Relief funds granted last year as part of the American Rescue Plan, Saul explained.
He said the money was able to be set aside for use in mitigating learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike most federal funds, which require local supplementation, these funds did not, and some of these funds will carry over into this next school year.
Estimates from the 2022-23 school year show a reduction in ending fund balance from that $23.5 million down to about $20.6 million, with the presence of a $2.6 million deficit.
The preliminary budget does not include anticipated expenditures using funds set aside to mitigate COVID-19 learning loss.
Also Monday, the board also engaged in a lengthy discussion about a service agreement with Panorama Education, discussing its potential flaws and the one-hour time commitment from students per year for surveys.
Councilman Adam Smith emphasized that it helps the district address the students' overall health through its ability to snapshot via survey. Campbell said that alternative sources of data about students, such as statewide survey data, is not as useful.
All members approved the deal except Michael Felegy.
The board also held a first reading on some new and reworded board policies in a presentation led by assistant superintendent Douglas Povilaitis.
The new policies would include adjusting governance of the district such, as requiring a conduct board of self assessment by the school board on a recurring basis and the development of a master facilities plan in addition to a comprehensive financial plan as recommended by the Pennsylvania School Board Association.
Additional potential changes include stating already practiced support for students with educational disabilities and pathways for unmanned aircraft (drones) to be used on the district campus.