Lehigh Valley

ASD looks to cap potential tax increase at 3.5 percent

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Property owners in Allentown won't know for another six months if their school district taxes will go up. But after Thursday night, they have a better idea of the maximum possible increase.

Allentown School District's Board of Directors forwarded a resolution during its finance committee-of-the-whole meeting to not exceed the 2019-2020 Act 1 Tax Index of 3.5 percent. That amount is the limit set by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for ASD on how high the district can raise taxes. The resolution was required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Passed in 2006, the Act 1 Index requires school districts to seek voter approval for tax increases greater than that number. However, the districts are able to avoid referendums if rate increases are sought to cover specific types of costs. There are three specific costs that qualify – district debt, special education costs and pension costs.

The district would not qualify for any of those three exceptions, according to comments made by Cynthia Craig-Booher, ASD's business manager.

The board will vote on the resolution at its Jan. 24 meeting. A balanced ASD budget is due to the state by June 30.

In other news, directors learned that Louis E. Dieruff's planetarium – known better as "The Learning Dome" – could open prior to the start of the 2019-2020 school year in September, according to ASD officials.

In attendance Thursday night was Lee Butz, chairman of the board of Alvin H. Butz Inc. The company, along with other businesses, is covering the costs of the planetarium.

"I am extremely confident this project will become a reality," Butz told the board.

Director Robert Smith thanked Butz. Smith has championed reopening the building for years, even when its prospects for success looked dim.

"This is one of the greatest moments in my 15 years on the board," Smith said.

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