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Parkland will pass a 1.92 percent tax increase next week

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 19 2013 05:30:47 AM CDT
SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

Residents of the Parkland School District can expect a 1.92 percent increase in their 2013-14 school taxes.

Parkland School Board is expected to approve that tax increase at its June 25 public meeting.

An update on the budget was presented to six school board members attending a public workshop meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

No one from the public attended to comment on the 2013-14 budget or to ask questions about it. Board members also had no comments on the final proposed budget.

It will be the lowest annual increase in at least the last three years, said John Vignone, Parkland’s director of business administration, who gave the presentation.

He said taxes increased 3.67 percent in the current school year.

Assuming the board approves the new budget, tax bills containing the increase will be sent July 1, the first day of the new school year.

An average home in the district has an assessed value of $221,000, according to Vignone, and that homeowner will pay $3,036 in school taxes.

“I’m happy that we can bring forth a budget that balances our wish to provide a high quality, comprehensive educational program -- that’s rich in visual and performing arts and athletic opportunities -- and balance that need and desire with the taxpayers’ ability to afford it,” said Parkland superintendent Richard Sniscak. “That’s what we strive to do and work hard to do.”

Explaining the evolution of the proposed budget since February, Vignone said: “We started at 5.82 percent and we ended up at 1.92 percent. A lot of hard work went into that, a lot of cuts, a lot of reductions.”

Vignone said the school board has been working on the 2013-14 budget since November.

The district’s 2013-14 budget totals $143.6 million, which Vignone said is more than 4 percent higher than the 2012-13 budget.

Vignone said Parkland is using half of its $1 million reserve to help balance the budget, as well as $4 million from its $21 million fund balance.

He said salaries for administrators will increase 2.5 percent. Teachers, who will be in the second year of a two-year contract, will get a flat $1,250 stipend rather than a percentage increase in their salaries. He said they got no increase in the first year of their contract.

Five teachers and two members of the support staff who retired or left will not be replaced, said Rodney Troutman, assistant superintendent, and other replacement personnel have been hired at lower salaries.

The number of teachers is dropping from 600 to 595, according to Troutman, who said the district has a total staff of more than 1,300.

Vignone told the board three positive “adjustments” totaling $480,443 have been made to the budget since late May, when the district was facing a possible 2.43 percent increase.

One adjustment was generated by Lehigh County’s reassessment, which created many appeals. The district projected property tax decreases based on those appeals because “you cannot budget money that you may lose in the appeal process,” explained Vignone.

But now that appeal hearings are being held, “we are mitigating many of those losses we thought we were going to receive. That brings assessed value back onto the district’s rolls. Our revenue goes up. As our revenue goes up, the value of a mill is more and we need less mills to balance the budget.”

He said a second positive adjustment is anticipated new construction, which will produce the same result.

The third adjustment is an unexpected savings on dental insurance, with no increase in the district’s premiums in 2013-14 and only 11 months of payments required for 12 months of coverage.

Vignone said every property in the district also will get a $105 “assessed value exception” on their tax bill. Clarifying, he said residents won’t get checks or $105 knocked off their tax bills. “We’ll translate that $105 into an assessed value reduction” – meaning the assessed value of properties will decrease by $105, so property owners will pay somewhat less in taxes. He explained that is possible because of gambling revenue received from the state.

During the board’s regular meeting after the workshop Tuesday night, the superintendent explained that the federal government has mandated a 10-cent increase in school lunch prices. Lunches will be $2.25 for elementary students, $2.50 for secondary students and $3.50 for adults.

Sniscak said prices are not increasing for milk, breakfast or reduced lunches and breakfasts.

One of the many items approved without discussion during the board’s regular meeting was a $99,878 contract with Prism Response, Inc., of Drums, Luzerne County, to remove asbestos from Kratzer Elementary School.