Wednesday, June 16, 2021

$130M Boyertown Schools Budget Raises Taxes 3%

The Boyertown School Board held a special meeting Tuesday night to pass a $130 million budget.
With a 5-4 vote Tuesday night, the Boyertown Area School Board adopted a $130 million budget that will raise taxes by 3 percent in the coming school year.

Voting no were board members Vice President Melody McWherter, Jill Dennin, Brandon Foose and Lisa Hogan. Voting in favor were board members Ruth Dierolf, Christine Neiman, Roger Updegrove, James Brophy and President Brian Hemingway.

The budget is balanced with the use of $2 million in surplus, or "fund balance," although as $1.2 million of that may be recovered under plans to launch a district cyber school that could lure back as many as 80 students who enrolled in cyber charter school during the pandemic, said Chief Financial Officer Patricia Denicola.

She said 80 returning students is "a conservative estimate."

The district lost 363 students to charter schools during the pandemic according to Michael Stoudt, the assistant superintendent for education and learning.

Both Foose and Dennin said although the state has a $3 billion surplus and Gov. Tom Wolf has put out a budget calling for $1 billion of that to fully fund "fair education funding formula" without raising taxes, "there seems to be no appetite for that" among the Republican-majority legislature.

State Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th Dist.
They both also mentioned the proposed SB 1, a bill co-sponsored by state Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24thDist. who represents the Boyertown School District in the Senate. One provision of SB 1 makes automatic the escalation of the amount of money businesses can contribute to private schools for an equivalent state tax break.

"I contacted our senator and I was told 'we spend enough on education. It was something I was disheartened to hear and I expressed my frustration to my senator," said Foose.

Board member Lisa Hogan said she would vote no because "I think we need to be more student focused and I don't think this budget is."

Board member Christine Neiman said the budget does not cut any academic, athletic or extra-curricular programs. "Everything's the same. Our students will be fine," she said.

"I just don't think the budget speaks to our priorities for our students. I do think it is good we're not cutting programs, but my goal is not to constantly every budget season be worrying what programs will be cut," Dennin said. "I would like to see a budget that is forward thinking, that is enhancing programs for our students instead of walking that tight rope."

Hemingway thanked the board members for their comments, adding "this was tough."

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