Lehigh Valley

Whitehall-Coplay School Board approves 2.6% school tax hike for 2017-2018

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - By a 6-2 vote, the Whitehall-Coplay Board of School Directors Monday evening passed a school tax increase of 0.42 mills or 2.6 percent raising the current real estate property tax millage from 16.172 to 16.593 mills.

The 2.6 percent tax hike represents an annual increase of  $72.56 for the average residential property, according to school district officials.

For the district's $67.6 million budget for next school year, there will be a 4.24 percent increase in expenditures from 2016-2017 and for the new budget to balance the board approved using $1,322,000 of its savings in addition to the tax hike.

According to district business manager Mike Malay, Jr. whose reappointment to another four-year term through June 2021 the board also approved Monday, the latest budget addresses a $1 million increase in employee pension costs (PSERS) of which the district receives half back form the state. Other fixed costs represented in the budget include a $500,000 increase in cyber education costs, and a $200.000 rise in special education costs.

However, the latest budget allows for the hiring of  a new special education teacher and five new assistant teaching positions in addition to covering the start of a new technology initiative, Malay said.

Additionally, he noted the budget addresses three recently negotiated contracts:

  • For teachers a 3.5 percent annual increase for three years
  • For support staff a 2.5 percent yearly increase under a four-year contract
  • Bus drivers will receive 2.5 percent annual increase for two years

Non-union and administrative staff will receive a 3.5 percent annual salary increase for four years with the second through fourth years based on a merit pay for goal achievement schedule, Malay said.

School Board directors not voting for the budget included director Owen Eberhardt and board treasurer Bill Leiner.

Eberhardt maintains he cannot afford to pay his current school tax bill let alone vote for an increase.

Leiner described the current school tax system as flawed and profoundly politicized. He remarked until the politics can be removed from the funding formula determination for the individual school districts nothing will substantially change.

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