SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. – The Parkland School Board on Tuesday night approved a resolution confirming that it will not raise local property taxes in excess of the Act 1 state index for the 2021-22 budget.
Parkland’s Act 1 index, which is determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, is 3%.
Every January, Pennsylvania school districts must determine whether they will keep any potential tax increase within the state index or apply to the state for exceptions to raise taxes beyond the index.
The index, approved in 2006, requires school districts to seek voter approval or exceptions from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for tax increases greater than the state-assigned index.
The board’s action on Tuesday night means that Parkland will not apply for exceptions and will proceed within the Act 1 index.
A tax increase of 3%, which would be the maximum, would raise $3.2 million in revenue, said Angel Green, assistant director of business administration. However, any decision to raise taxes will not be finalized until spring.
So far, there’s some good news on the revenue side as the district fine-tunes its 2021-22 budget. Parkland is experiencing an expanding tax base, higher property assessments and an upward trend in real estate transfer taxes, Green said.
On the other side of the ledger are increasing expenses, including $1.8 million in additional costs related to increasing charter school enrollment — a problem that many districts are facing.
There are also increased costs from the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System and health insurance for employees, Green said. The administration will have a better idea of salary requirements later in the year, she added.
Parkland has a $44 million fund balance. For the 2020-21 school year, the district tapped $8.7 million from the fund balance to balance the $192 million budget and prevent a tax hike.
Superintendent Richard Sniscak said COVID-19 continues to affect school budgets statewide with unexpected expenditures. Parkland, he said, is experiencing slow but steady growth and flat state funding.
New federal assistance to address pandemic-related needs in Pennsylvania’s public and charter schools is expected to be $2.2 billion, of which Parkland is set to receive $5.5 million, Sniscak said.
He cautioned that the district must monitor revenue streams so when federal funds are gone, the district has sustainable funding without having to raise taxes or make budget cuts.