Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Pottsgrove Looks to Cut 1.5% Tax Hike Down to 1%

The Pottsgrove School Board meeting was broadcast on Zoom Tuesday.

The Pottgrove School Board Tuesday night unanimously adopted a $70 million preliminary budget that, if left unchanged, would raise taxes by 1.5 percent.

But if at least two board members have their way, it will be changed.

Board Vice President Al Leach and board member Bill Parker both made it clear they want to get the tax hike down to 1 percent. They also made it clear that at this point, the only way to get there is by cutting at least one position.

Although Parker said the cut should be an administrator, Leach said "that won't be enough."

It also became evident during the budget discussion, that the move to cut personnel has already progressed to the point that it was discussed in closed-door executive session. The Open Meetings Law allows the board to exclude the public from discussions about specific personnel.

It also become evident that Business Manager David Nestor does not want the tax hike reduced below the 1.5 percent proposed.

School Board President Robert Lindgren said during the operations/facility committee meeting, Nestor "made a plea" to raise taxes this year.

Despite reducing discretionary spending every year for the past five years, and posting among the lowest tax rate increase rates in Montgomery County, Pottsgrove has a $2.9 million "structural deficit," Lindgren said Nestor told his committee. 

Over the past five years, Pottsgrove's tax hike average works out to 0.2 percent, while the Montgomery County average is 2.15 percent, Nestor told the committee.

And while the district has recently seen some increased property assessments from new housing developments, Nestor said much of that has been offset by assessment challenges mounted by commercial properties.

As it stands, a 1.5 percent tax hike is "not covering expenditures," said Nestor. "Going lower at this point, would make the shortfall even worse and cause more risk in the future," he warned.

Nestor said given that school districts are receiving sizeable federal COVID-19 aid packages this year, the conventional wisdom among school officials is that the state is unlikely to significantly increase its subsidy in the coming fiscal year.

Pottsgrove is eligible to receive about $3.7 million in federal aid.

A 1.5 percent property tax hike will add $595,000 to the bottom line -- about $68 for a home assessed at $120,000, the district median, according to Nestor. A 1 percent hike would generate only $390,000. 

Parker suggested that $200,000 gap could be closed by cutting an administration position. But that was not a decision that could be made in a budget vote, according to district solicitor Marc Davis, who said the vote last night "is not binding" as the final budget, which the law requires be adopted by June. 30.

So Parker asked Lindgren to agree to hold another board meeting when the matter of reducing the budget can be further discussed, which Lindgren agreed to do.

Click here to read the Tweets from last night's meeting.

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