The board of the Perkiomen Valley School District on Monday night adopted a $90.2 million budget for the 2012-13 school year.
The budget includes a 2.285 percent property tax hike for homeowners in the district. The tax rate will increase to 29.24 mills, which translates to an annual tax increase of $15.21 per year ($1.27 per month) for the average homeowner in the district.
The district could have increased taxes by up to 4.83 percent without putting the matter to voters in a referendum.
The board was negotiating with the teachers’ union as late as last Friday, June 15, for a 6-month wage freeze, but as of that date none of the teachers had agreed to the freeze.
The board voted to use the exclusions available under Act 1, which caps tax increases at 2.0 percent but allows districts to use certain exceptions to increase that amount.
The other two options for the board were to use the existing fund balance to cover the shortfall or to cut two more teaching positions (one via early retirement and the other by not filling a position that will be vacated).
“Cutting teaching positions will directly impact class sizes,” said business administrator Jim Weaver.
A large part of the increase in expenditures is a 43 percent increase in the district’s required contribution to PSERS, the Public School Employees’ Retirement System.
While raising taxes was a concern for several board members, several of them also expressed worries that the current fund balance won’t be enough money to cover the district’s needs.
Board member Randy Bennett said, “The long term choice is clear – we’re going to have to address the state of our fund balance at some point – but this collides head on with the political and economic reality we’re all faced with.”
The current $4,340,952 fund balance represents 4.78 percent of the district’s operating expenses for next year.
The budget vote consisted of both approving the general fund and approving the tax rates.
The general fund vote passed 6 votes to 2, with Capt. Sam Schweigert and board president Lynn Bigelow voting no. Yes votes were cast by board vice president Lori Snyder, Randy Bennett, Gerry Barnefiher, John King, Diane Landes and Ann Mantey.
The tax rate motion passed 5 votes to 3, with Bennett, Schweigert and Bigelow voting no. Yes votes were cast by Snyder, Barnefiher, King, Landes and Mantey.
“For those who have been around, this hasn’t been an easy budget year by any means,” Barnefiher said.
In addition to the budget discussions, the board also interviewed seven candidates for the seat being . Warren’s resignation will be effective June 30.
After a round of questions and two roll-call votes, the board selected to fill the vacancy.
Galambos, a 12-year resident of the Perkiomen Valley, has two children in district schools – one going into second grade and one entering fifth grade. She campaigned for school board in November 2011.
The other six candidates were Elizabeth Stolar, Rich Bouher, Paul Smith, Jim Nelson, Keith Gilchrist, and Tonya Butler.
Each candidate was given two minutes per question to answer seven questions posed by the board.
The questions included queries on why each candidate wants to be on the board, what they feel the biggest problem facing the board is, how they would determine where to make cuts in a district facing budget issues, and who the board serves in order of importance.
Galambos told the board she was interested in the position because she “want[s] to be part of the solution.”
“I’d like to see greater use of town hall meetings and technology, and helping the public to understand the fiscal process - things like Act 1 and PSERS,” Galambos said when asked what she would change about the board.
The board’s most pressing problem, Galambos said, is “the sustainability of a high-quality education.
“I want to know, are [our students] going to college? Are they graduating from college? What outcomes are happening with our kids?”