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Lehigh Valley

East Penn School Board hikes taxes as it passes final budget

EMMAUS, Pa. - The East Penn School Board passed a budget that increases property taxes by 2.19% by a vote of 6-2 at its June 12 meeting.

The millage rate will now be 18.08.

The increase was a reduction from the 2.90% originally proposed. The Board decreased the amount at its last meeting.

The board made the reduction possible by drawing more money from the Fund Balance.

The budget provides for $148,587,179 in total expenditures and includes a 0.5% Earned Income Tax and a 0.5% Real Estate Transfer Tax.

Board members Chris Donatelli and Carol Allen cast “no” votes. Board member Rebecca Heid was absent.

Several board members praised the strong communication between the administration and themselves in the process of crafting the budget.

They said the administration was flexible and responsive when addressing their concerns throughout the process.

Board President Alan Earnshaw said that he appreciated the “diligent work” done in formulating the budget.

Superintendent Michael Schilder said that he was “quite confident and quite comfortable” that the budget adequately addresses the needs of the school district.

In other news, Assistant Superintendent Kristen Campbell and a team of kindergarten teachers gave a presentation advocating full-time kindergarten.

Campbell and the teachers had conducted research looking into the benefits of switching from part-time to full-time kindergarten.

Campbell and the teachers took turns explaining the benefits of a full-day program, including placing increased emphasis on “purposeful play” and devoting more time for fostering social skills.

They said that full-time kindergarten would achieve the goal of having more students be proficient in reading by 3rd grade. They said that 27% of students are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade, according to PSSA tests.

They said that students receive 280 minutes of learning in full-time kindergarten compared with 140 minutes in part-time kindergarten.

The Board will vote on full-day kindergarten at its second October meeting.

Several board members said they wanted an estimate of full-time kindergarten’s costs to taxpayers about a month before the vote in October. Campbell and the teachers had not provided the estimated costs for the program.

President Earnshaw said that the Board should be careful in not “pinning too much of our hopes” on full-day kindergarten. He said that a lot of student success is determined by how much they are read to at home.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder said he would try to prepare a cost estimate ahead of the vote so that board members will have time to consider the numbers before making a decision.


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