But he said it is not the place of the government in the American free market system to create jobs and pick winners and losers. “If we approve this, we will be doing just that.”

Ballard asked if East Penn should tell its taxpayers “to take a hike” by philosophically refusing to accept a project that will bring it more tax revenue. “We need this kind of project badly.”

Stolz questioned how the shopping center site qualifies for the TIF program, saying: “I don’t know that I’d call it blighted. It’s a field.”

Despite abstaining, Policano said TIF money will be used to make improvements on Route 222 that fix problems created by the state. He said those problems must be fixed “no matter what. If we put it off, it’s going to be more expensive to fix it later on. This is one way to get it done now.”

No tax increase budget

Regarding the proposed 2013-14 budget, Ballard said: “I want to make sure the message goes out loud and clear that this is a zero percent tax increase --no tax increase.”

East Penn Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger said one of his administration’s goals was to develop a budget that is both educationally sound and fiscally prudent.

Seidenberger boasted East Penn offers “a quality educational program at a very quality price.”

He also stressed East Penn’s Senior Citizen Tax Rebate Program will continue for older residents who meet eligibility guidelines.

Seidenberger said the district has made a very serious attempt to limit tax increases in the last three or four years.

Despite no tax increase, the superintendent said the district will add four teaching positions in the next school year: a high school biology teacher, a special education teacher for autistic students, a speech therapist and an additional elementary teacher at Macungie “and I think Shoemaker as well.”

He clarified by explaining by moving people around, it actually will be an increase of one new elementary teacher. “There are some places where enrollment is going down, so we’ll shift a teacher over.” He also said the high school will have only one librarian, indicating that’s how the district can add a biology teacher.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve added teaching staff,” said the superintendent.

Board member Francee Fuller said while some neighboring school districts are being forced to make “horrific” budget decisions. East Penn is not only able to preserve its educational program and staff but selectively adding staff where required. She praised “the great stewardship of our administration.”

Even Stolz voted for the budget, saying it is the first one he’s voted for since he’s been on the school board, because it won’t raise taxes.

Earnshaw is “a little uncomfortable” that the new budget projects a $5.5 million deficit but added he’s confident revenues will be higher than budgeted. “I’m convinced by the time the year ends that deficit will be significantly reduced.” He said the district always spends less than it budgets. “This is a conservative budget and that’s the right thing to do.”