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Nazareth School Board Hears Explanation Behind Expected 1.9% Tax Hike

Preliminary adoption of Nazareth Area School District's 2013-2014 budget is set for Jan. 28, final public presentation will be May 13 and final adoption will be May 20.

The Nazareth Area School District wants public comment on the proposed 2013-2014 budget.

In fact, the last slide in Monday night’s formal budget presentation contained the e-mail addresses of two of the budget’s architects -- superintendent Dennis Riker and business administrator Bernadine Rishcoff. Those addresses are:

  • driker@nazarethasd.org
  • brishcoff@nazarethasd.org

The proposed budget contains a 1.9 percent hike in property taxes to cover a 3.8 percent increase in spending.

The spending increase is caused largely by higher salary and benefit costs, especially higher pension contributions.

The tax increase would mean a $72 annual increase for the average Nazareth area property, Rishcoff said Monday night. The tax rate would go from the current 48.55 mills to 49.47 mills -- a .92-mill increase.

The $70.84 million budget includes an additional $2.57 million in spending.

Although Monday was the budget’s formal presentation, it was unveiled in late November before the board’s Audit and Finance Committee.

As they did at the committee meeting, Riker and Rishcoff explained how a rise in pension contributions is a key factor in the overall spending increase.

This year’s contribution rate to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System is 12.36 percent. That amount would rise to 16.75 percent in the upcoming school year.

The proposed budget calls for spending at each of the district’s six schools to be cut by 5 percent and for spending in various departments to stay the same as this year’s levels. An exception is human resources, which shows about a 15 percent cut.

Other budget highlights presented by Riker and Rishcoff Monday night -- and clarified by Rishcoff after the meeting -- include:

  • Nazareth now has the fifth-highest tax rate among Northampton County's eight districts, Riker said. In the 2000-2001 school year, the district’s rate was tied for first as the highest along with the Bangor district, he said.
  • Riker pointed out that when it comes to a measurement called an “equalized mill,” Nazareth’s is the lowest in the county. According to the state Department of Education website, an “equalized mill” is calculated by dividing a district’s total taxes collected and remitted by its total market value as certified by the Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board.
  • Spending for charter schools would go from the current $710,000 to $850,000. Riker called the proposed number “a conservative figure.” The district’s December enrollment report shows total charter school enrollment at 95 -- just one student higher than this time last year. The number was 86 at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
  • Riker said the administration likely will request higher spending for capital projects and capital technology projects. Both categories show no increase in spending levels of $300,000 each.
  • Riker said pupil transportation costs could end up being lower than budgeted. The spending plan now calls for about a $170,000 increase. That hike, Rishcoff said, is caused by a 3 percent increase in the district’s bus contract, a $17,000 increase for I-U transportation and a $40,000 rise in fuel costs.
  • Debt payments are down by about $818,000 to $7.41 million. Rishcoff explained that a $610,574 spending cut listed under the category “other” on a budget summary sheet reflects the lower debt payments.
  • Another spending cut of about $94,000 under special education is the result of savings from the district no longer having to pay the I-U for two special education teachers who are now part of Nazareth’s payroll, Rishcoff said.

As for the budget’s timetable, preliminary adoption is set for Jan. 28, final public presentation will be May 13 and final adoption will be May 20.

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