PEN ARGYL, Pa. -

Enrollment is projected to decline again this year when students return to the classroom in the fall at Pen Argyl Area School District, continuing a downward trend that started about a decade ago.

Thirteen fewer students are expected to enroll in the district, or a total of 1,654 students, according to numbers released Tuesday night by the school board.

Business manager Walter Schlegel Jr. said enrollment has been steadily declining from a high of about 1,900 students over the last 10 years.

The district projects 883 elementary grade students and 771 secondary students.

The district also expects 35 out of district students, 56 cyber school students and eight charter school students.

Last month, the board passed a $27.3 million budget that included a 2.7 percent increase in real estate taxes.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, resident Joe Hall cited numbers he said he had received from Harrisburg that indicated the state was allocating more than $400,000 in additional funding this year than last year to the district.

Hall, referring to the 2.7 percent tax hike, said, “Could you give that money back”?

Hall didn’t get an immediate response but after the meeting in a talk with Schlegel. Schlegel explained that while it was true the state was giving the district more money, the rising costs of pension fund obligations and a new, state-ordered preschool program will devour those funds.

In another matter, the board approved new textbooks for geometry and biology.

School board member Ethan Habrial voted against the biology books, mainly because of the inclusion of evolution, which he said was “basically a religion,” not a science.

“Every single attempt to prove evolution has failed,” Habrial said.