Elizabethtown Area board informally supports 3% tax increase, considers a smaller one – LNP | LancasterOnline

elizabethtown-area-board-informally-supports-3%-tax-increase,-considers-a-smaller-one-–-lnp-|-lancasteronline

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When: Elizabethtown Area school board meeting, April 26.

What happened: The board discussed the proposed $73.04 million budget for the 2022-23 school year. As it now stands, the proposed budget includes a 3% property tax increase. Changes could still be made to the final budget the board plans to adopt at the June 14 meeting.

Consensus: The board did an informal poll on whether to continue with the 3% increase before it votes at the May 10 workshop meeting to advertise the proposed final budget. Five board members favored retaining the 3% increase: President Terry Seiders, James Read, Karen Sweigart, Craig Hummer and Caroline Lalvani. Three were against: Vice President Michael Martin and Stephen and Danielle Lindemuth. James Emery was absent. Martin previously requested the administration find $1 million in budget cuts to avoid a property tax increase, but the board decided against making any cuts at the March 22 meeting.

Alternative increase: The Lindemuths suggested a 2% tax increase instead of 3%. Danielle Lindemuth pointed to community feedback about a high tax burden and savings gained from the recent decision to close Rheems and Mill Road elementary schools.

Quotable: “If we’re able to do something for our community, I think that would go a long way in helping our older population to be able to afford it … but even our younger population, that we are all feeling that pinch,” Danielle Lindemuth said.

Argument for 3%: Hummer noted that the proposed 3% tax increase is well under the 4.3% increase allowed by the district’s Act 1 index, a tax cap assigned by the state Department of Education. Hummer also maintained that the district’s five-year financial plan, projecting a 3% annual tax increase, would build up savings for the anticipated renovation of the high school/middle school complex. He also pointed to rising mandated costs stemming from employee retirement contributions, cyber charter schools and special education coupled with a lack of state funding.

Quotable: “It’s mandated items that we have to fund that unfortunately falls back to the local taxpayer,” Hummer said. “We need help from the state. We’ve been asking forever, and we’ve gotten nowhere,” he said later in the discussion, eliciting applause.

Budget details: The proposed $73.04 million budget is about $1.4 million more than the $71.6 million budget presented March 22. But this latest update provided by Dan Forry, director of finance and operations, showed $1.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds to be used for additional one-year staff positions, including reading specialists and math interventionists, as presented at the April 12 meeting. Health care costs have also increased.

Average increase: According to Forry, a 3% tax increase would bring the millage to 18.6089, resulting in a tax bill of $3,349.60 — a $97.56 increase — for the owner of a homestead property with a median assessed value of $180,000.

Restructuring: With the elementary school consolidations, several positions are being transferred, as detailed in the approved personnel report. The administrative realignments include appointing Jacques Viau, now Rheems principal, as Bear Creek School principal; Mike Pericci, now Mill Road principal, as student supports coordinator; and Nate Frank, now Bear Creek principal, as curriculum and federal programs coordinator. The latter two positions represent new roles and responsibilities, but the number of administrators remains the same, at 22, district spokesperson Troy Portser said. Also, Richard Toth, human resources director and safety/security coordinator, is resigning effective May 5. Toth said before the meeting that he is taking a coordinator position with UPS in Middletown.

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