Bethlehem Schools' budget requires 2.5 percent tax hike

 

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Bethlehem Area School District board gave preliminary approval Tuesday for a 2020-21 budget, but the spending plan has a long way to go.

"This is the first look and obviously there will be a lot of work done between now and the final passage in June," school board President Michael Faccinetto said.

The work ahead will be bridging the $10.8 million gap in projected spending versus revenue. The budgeted spending for the next school year in the plan is $311.2 million versus expected revenue of $300.4 million.

BASD Superintendent Joseph Roy said the key vote Tuesday was to apply for an exception to the state-imposed limit of 3.2% on tax increases for the year. The vote Tuesday does not mean there will be an increase, but it does clear the way in case the district needs state approval for an increase above 3.2%.

Roy referred to the vote on a potential exception to the Pennsylvania limit on tax increases as an "inoculation" in case the district needs "to raise millage more than we think we would have to."

Higher costs for salaries and pensions helped drive up the 2020-21 spending plan from the current school year's projected spending of $291.2 million.

The vote in favor of the preliminary budget and application for an exception to state limit was 6-0, with Faccinetto, Dean Donaher, Craig Neiman, Kim Shively, Angela Sinkler and Emily Schenkel voting in favor. Shannon Patrick, Rogelio Ortiz and Karen Beck Pooley were absent. The meeting was held at the district's Education Center on Sycamore Street.

The board will hold a budget workshop March 30, and a review of the proposed final budget May 4. A board meeting May 11 will be held to approve the proposed final budget, with budget adoption expected on June 15.

The board then immediately went into a finance committee meeting, led by Neiman. Robert Travis of the Gorman & Associates accounting firm presented a review of the district's 2018-19 finances and business practices.

"It's a really good audit," he said, in short.

Neiman said the audit is a reflection of excellent work by BASD Chief Financial Officer Stacy Gober and her staff.

Neiman also said that Northampton County has chosen 13 district buildings to be polling places in the April primary election and November general election: Asa Packer, Donegan, Farmersville, Governor Wolf, Hanover, Miller Heights and Spring Garden elementary schools; Liberty High School; Broughal, East Hills and Northeast middle schools; and the Education Center.

The school district also welcomed Frank Pearn, BASD's new business manager. Pearn, a resident of Northampton, started Tuesday after 15 years with the Parkland School District.

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