Lehigh Valley

Allentown School Board considers tax hike to balance budget

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Allentown school board Thursday unanimously approved a proposed budget that would hike property taxes by 3.8 percent, if it's adopted next month.

The preliminary budget’s passage followed the adoption of an amendment introduced by member Robert Smith Jr., that lowered the proposed increase from 4.8 percent to 3.8 percent.

The vote on the amendment was 5-4 with board members Audrey Mathison, Debra Lamb, Elizabeth Martinez and Ellen Bishop casting no votes. The school district's current millage rate is 18.3287 mills.

In proposing the amendment, Smith said he was keeping in mind those citizens who “worked 16 hours” a day to “make their payments.” He said that a 4.8 percent  hike would be a “tremendous, tremendous increase” that Allentown citizens don’t deserve.

Interim Superintendent Gary Cooper said that he understands how “painful” the tax increase would be. He said that without that increase, the district would need to dip further into the fund balance or cut school programs.

The budget as proposed would also include a $15 per capita tax, a 1.33 percent earned income tax and a 1 percent realty transfer tax. A $52 local service tax would also be provided for.

The budget will now be available for public comment. The deadline for the board to pass a final budget is June 30.

In other business, board members unanimously approved a five-year renewal for the Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School. The board also voted 9-0 to amend the Roberto Clemente Charter School. The school will now be serving students kindergarten through 12. The school had previously taught students from grades 6-12.

The board approved a resolution on behalf of Belinda Miller, the school district's special education director in the district for 3 years who passed away on May 15.

An award from The Arc Lehigh and Northampton counties was accepted on her behalf on May 16. The organization advocates and works for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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