Schools superintendent proposes first tax hike in four years

Posted: 11:13 PM EST Jan 22, 2013

Property owners in the Saucon Valley School District could be facing their first tax hike in four years.

Superintendent Sandra G. Fellin recommended a proposed 2013-14 budget Tuesday night that would need a tax increase of .86 of a mill to balance it. That means a property owner with a home assessed at
$100,000 would pay an extra $86, she said.

Fellin also recommended cutting two-and-a-half teaching positions through attrition and delaying the replacement of a school bus to bring down the budget total to $40,903,747. Without those $270,855 in cuts, the budget would require .88 of a mill to be balanced, she said.

The board last raised taxes by a mill for the 2008-2009 school year, according to business manager David Bonenberger.

Tuesday night's presentation was the opening round of budget talks in the Saucon Valley district. Some important information -- namely, the amount of state funding Governor Tom Corbett will propose -- is still unknown. But it will have a significant impact on the final numbers, because state money makes up 18 percent of the budget, Fellin said.

The superintendent noted that the ongoing upgrade of the district's math curriculum would cost $18,000 more in 2013-14; that money spent on technology would decrease by about $94,000, and money spent on athletics would stay about the same.

She also asked the board to consider what she called "three top safety
issues": replacing safety columns, called bollards, in front of schools' glass doors; install double-door entrances and alarms, and hire a full-time police officer for the district, which she estimated would cost about $66,000.

Only one of the six school board members at the meeting reacted to the news. "Fine first shot," said board member Charles Bartolet approvingly to both Fellin and Bonenberger.

School officials said Fellin's budget proposal will soon be posted on- line.

In other business, the board approved a new three-year contract for assistant superintendent Dr. Carl Atkinson. The contract will run from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2016. Atkinson has been assistant superintendent since 2008. His salary was not immediately available Tuesday night.