ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Allentown School District Board of Directors during its Thursday night meeting approved a proposed final 2021-22 budget, which includes a 4.6% tax increase on property owners.
The tax hike is the highest percentage permitted, without requiring voter referendum, under the Act 1 Index set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Within the $365 million spending plan, the highest budget expenditure — $124.4 million — will be spent on salaries. The second highest expense is directed at supporting employee benefits, which next year is scheduled to cost $98 million. That is an increase of about $5.6 million from the 2020-21 budget. ASD's charter school costs also increased from $58 million this year to a proposed $66.2 million next year.
From a revenue standpoint, the biggest increase was easily in Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief funds designated by the CARES Act. The capital was allocated to assist K-12 educational entities to prevent, prepare for and respond to the impact of COVID-19.
During the current school year, ASD received about $9.8 million in these funds. That amount increases to $26.5 million in 2021-22 proposed budget.
A press release issued by the district after Thursday's meeting indicates that "ASD plans to use the ESSER funding to maintain district operations, improve air quality and ventilation in buildings, and invest in academic programs and resources."
From a revenue percentage impact, the two biggest funding sources in the proposed budget are $120.8 million in basic education funding and $99 million in local property taxes.
The budget is predicated on various assumptions, which include a 6% increase in healthcare and prescription medicine and a 2% increase in charter school enrollment.
The final budget is scheduled to be presented in June and is expected to be approved before June 30.
In other news, during the personnel report it was announced Shannon Mayfield, principal of William Allen High School, will resign June 30. Mayfield was hired July 26, 2018.
At the meeting's conclusion, the board approved a motion to once again hold meetings in person starting in June. The location will be at a secondary school, although the venue was not disclosed Thursday night.
Specifically, the motion required that five board members would be physically present and the public would be allowed to attend. Meetings will continue to be streamed live.
"We are a public entity and it's time for us to become a public board again," said Director Sara Jane Brace. "We can still stream, but we should not be having our public meeting via Zoom."
"We need to begin the process of getting back into a public space," said President Nancy Wilt. "I do think it is time."