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Proposed final budget adopted, community members speak at Board meeting

Mr. Ralph Jackson, Orchestra Director for Bridle Path and Montgomery Elementary String Ensemble, recognized eighteen students for their accomplishments as members of the string ensemble and participation in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of the Symphonic Series.

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LANSDALE- On Tuesday evening, the North Penn Board of School Directors met for a special action meeting, followed by a work session meeting. To start the meeting, numerous NPSD students were recognized for their accomplishments.

Mr. Ralph Jackson, Orchestra Director for Bridle Path and Montgomery Elementary String Ensemble, recognized eighteen students for their accomplishments as members of the string ensemble and participation in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of the Symphonic Series.

In addition, Mr. Andrew Baker, German teacher at NPHS, recognized ten students for their accomplishment as world language students and their achievements in the National Language Exams and Oral Proficiency Contest in German.

After proclamations, eleven community members addressed the Board about varying issues. Three members addressed the ECP meeting that took place the previous night, and how the option of full day kindergarten was not moved to the full board for discussion. The citizens explained several reasons why full day kindergarten is needed, including a study showing a decline in incoming kindergarten test scores, an overwhelming workload burden on kids and teachers due to the few hours in a half day, and the lack of time given for kids to socialize and make friends.

Two moms expressed their concern over class sizes at the elementary schools, specifically Knapp Elementary. After acknowledging her gratitude for the helpful teachers and guidance at the school, one mom said she believed teachers are not able to manage their students and give them each personal attention due to larger class sizes. Another mom talked about how when monitoring guidelines, the district should keep in mind that guidelines should not always be the reality.

“Guidelines don’t factor in that there are more than 26 bodies; there are 26 different personalities and language abilities. We need to be able to have classrooms that are appropriate and meet all [the kids] needs,” one community member said.

Another issue brought up was diversity and discrimination. A mom shared a story about her daughter at Penndale who was thought to be “popping pills,” when in reality she was eating goldfish at her locker. The mom explained her anger at the situation and how it was handled, regarding how the school board policy was not followed, and how nobody simply asked her daughter what she was eating. The mom explained how this was a common occurrence being a person of color. The story was told as a smaller part of a larger issue that focused on concerns over staffing, and training teachers.  

“I want to feel like I’m a valued member of this community, and so are the other people of different backgrounds,” stated the mother.

Two other parents contributed to this discussion with their own personal experiences. One was a mom of a child who said he was discriminated against and harassed by his math teacher at his elementary school. Another mom was one of a disabled child, and she spoke out about the diversity meetings and her experiences.

Following the audience of citizens, Mr. Stephen Skrocki gave a presentation of the 2017-2018 proposed final budget during the work session portion of the May 9th School Board meeting. The budget included a 1.99% tax increase, and a $5 million deficit with a 2.86% increase in expenditures. Factoring out the anticipated purchase of ChromeBooks, this will be a $3.5 million deficit with a 2.25% increase in expenditures. The special action meeting and work session meeting on Tuesday was the adoption of the proposed final budget, and the action meeting on June 15th will be the adoption of the final budget.

Looking at the budget for the upcoming fiscal 2017-2018 year, there will be a $252.5 million budget with a $7 million increase in expenses over the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which equates to a 2.86% increase. Comparing the budget from the 2016-2017 year, there is a $5,335,648 increase in revenues, which is a 2.20% change, and a $7,019,124 increase in expenses, which is a 2.86% change. The surplus will be changing from -$3,314,653 in the 2016-2017 year to -$4.998,129 in the 2017-2018 year, equating to a -$1,683,476 change, or 51%.

The primary driver that covers the $7 million expenditure increase is the PSERS, or Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System, which accounts for $3,056,813 of the $7 million. ChromeBooks for grades 6, 11, and 12 account for $1,500,000. Other drivers include debt service, salaries, medical, tuition for charters and placements, and diesel fuel.

The Fund Balance for June 30th, 2016 is a total of $36,736,867, with the anticipation of adding to that by the end of the fiscal year. The largest part of the final budget is allocated to salaries, and that is 49% of the budget. Benefits, including medical, pension, etc., make up the second largest part, which is 30%. Retirement Rate is the largest driving force in the budget. There is a massive increase in the gross money from the 2010-2011 year to the 2017-2018 year. The amount was $6,117,388 in the 2010-2011 year, and in the 2017-2018 year it is $39,669,217.

78% of revenue allocation is to local, 21% is to state, and 1% is to federal. In the local revenue allocation, real estate/interims make up the largest portion, which is 87%. Other parts of the local allocation include EIT (earned income tax), transfer tax, delinquent tax, and a portion assigned to “other.” In the state revenue allocation, retirement, at 39%, accounts for the largest part. Other pieces of the state allocation include special education, transportation, property tax reduction, social security, and a portion assigned to “other.”

“The point illustrated here is we’re being more aggressive with our revenue budget, and we don’t expect large surpluses at the end of the year. Our budgets are getting tighter and tighter,” explained Skrocki.

Historically, in the ten years from the 2008-2009 year to the 2016-2017 year, there has been a .55% increase in tax base, which is the value of all the properties in the school district. The 2017-2018 year will have not have this increase in the tax base, due to a reassessment appeal that affected the district.

The Board approved the proposed final budget, with a vote of 7:2. Mr Edward Diasio and Mr. Frank O’Donnell opposed the proposal. The next Board of School Directors meeting will be an action meeting scheduled for 7:30 PM on May 18th in the Educational Services Center.

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Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA
Proposed final budget adopted, community members speak at Board meeting