QUAKERTOWN, Pa. -

The school board of Quakertown Community School District completed the hiring of its new superintendent Thursday night and gave initial approval to a 2014-15 budget that will raise school taxes by 2.1 percent if it gets final approval next month.

Meeting in public for more than three hours Thursday night, the board also:

• Began organizing an ad hoc committee to improve school security.

• Received an update on plans to install electricity-generating solar
panels on the roofs of Quakertown High School.

• Promoted a member of its administrative staff to assistant superintendent.

• Accepted the resignation of one of its principals and said goodbye
to the district’s technology director.

• Directed its secretary to begin looking into the possibility of
holding future graduation ceremonies outdoors, on the school district’s own football field.

• Learned it’s not practical to hold its public meetings in some of
its elementary schools.

Apparently making a symbolic effort to be closer to the public, the board sat around a U-shaped configuration of tables in front of its formal dais during both its work session and regular meeting.

2014-15 budget

The board unanimously passed a proposed final budget, with final passage of that final budget scheduled for June 12.

If the projected 2014-15 budget does not change in the next month, the average property owner in the district will be paying $79.45 more in taxes for the next year, according to Robert Riegel, the district’s business administrator.

He indicated that $79 increase would be for owners of homes worth around $260,000.

Revenues in the proposed district budget are $93.37 million, but expenditures are $96.33 million, meaning the budget is $2,161,000 away from being balanced, said Riegel.

He said the 2.1 percent tax increase will generate $1,162,000, which still is $999,000 less than the district needs to balance the budget.

He suggested planned refinancing of debt should reduce or even eliminate that $999,000.

“That could balance our budget,” said Riegel.

He noted 64 percent of the district’s budget is spent on salaries and benefits.

Riegel indicated changes still can be made to the budget between now and June 12, but the increase can’t go higher than 2.1 percent, as dictated by the state.

One elderly female resident objected to any tax increase, saying she’s been seeking property tax relief from the school board for the last 14 years. She told the board low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes are struggling in the district. “I cannot afford to keep paying the taxes. I am strapped – physically, emotionally and financially.”

Looking further ahead, Riegel warned the school board that the district already is looking at a tax increase of at least 4.5 percent the 2015-16 budget.

New superintendent

The board voted 8-to-1 to “elect” Dr. William E. Harner as the district’s superintendent for a four-year term beginning July 1.

Harner has been working as substitute superintendent in the district since January.

His appointment to superintendent received initial board approval by a 5-3 vote in April, but his contract was not approved until Thursday night.