Catasauqua Press

Sunday, September 24, 2017

School tax increase is on the horizon

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 by MARK RECCEK Special to The Press in Local News

Catasauqua Area School District homeowners likely will see an increase in their real estate taxes next year.

District Superintendent Robert Spengler discussed with the school board April 11 the proposed 2017-18 budget.

The 1.12-percent increase amounts to a balanced budget of $29.9 million and remains within the Pennsylvania Act 1 index of 3.2 percent.

Included in the budget is a millage rate increase to 17.4073 mills for Lehigh County residents and 56.4681 mills for Northampton County residents.

Spengler told The Press the district continues to be hampered by charter school payment obligations.

“Our greatest challenge is the unfunded state mandate of charter schools funded by the local school district’s taxpayers in the form of tuition,” he said. “We are anticipating over $1.6 million in tuition payments to charter schools this year, approximately $700,000 more than anticipated.”

Charter school costs to the district in 2016-17 amounted to $946,750.

During the meeting, Spengler said he hopes to put together a plan to push parents and students away from charter schools and back into the Catasauqua schools.

Currently, 103 district students attend charter schools such as the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School, 330 Howertown Road; Executive Education Academy Charter School, 555 Union Blvd., Allentown; and Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School, 1414 E. Cedar St., Allentown.

The plan would consist of cutting at least $500,000 from budgetary tuition costs, he said.

Specially included in the plan, the district would look at adding technology and individualized learning, before- and after-school care and tutoring, residency verification, its cyber program, family discussions and public relations.

The allure of charter schools lies in their offering prekindergarten, full-day kindergarten, before- and after- school care, technology programs, language education and residency mobility while remaining with the same school, Spengler noted.

Other unfunded mandates of concern include an increase in $250,000 in special education costs and $300,000 more in Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (retirement) costs. Charter school, special education and retirement costs will see an increase in $1.5 million, or 3.9 percent, in 2017-18.

Other highlights of Spengler’s presentation included reducing two teaching positions through attrition, maintaining the additional teaching and aide positions added this year, a reduction in maintenance positions by one, maintaining the $5,000 contribution to the Catasauqua Public Library and continuing the district cyber program.

Also, the budget proposes to continue the utility cost management program and the Catasauqua High School 1:1 technology program at $155,565, add two new bus replacement vehicles, continue the summer student worker program and maintain the Affordable Care Act requirements.

The board will vote on the preliminary budget May 9, with the final vote occurring at the June 13 meeting.