In preparing to advertise a preliminary budget for the 2018-19 school year, the Elizabethtown school board discussed planning for a possible tax increase of 5.4 percent, but aiming for a lesser increase when tax rates are set in June.
Business manager George Longridge anticipates an estimated $62.7 million in expenses; however, not all costs, such as health care, are known. The major cost drivers are salaries, pension costs, special education and charter school fees. Longridge also anticipates a 10-percent increase in transportation costs.
The state Act 1 index, which limits tax increases, is 3.2 percent for Elizabethtown. However, the district could apply for exceptions for special education and pension costs, bringing a possible increase to 5.4 percent.
Longridge said that district usually applies for the exceptions as a way to give the administration and board flexibility when facing uncertain costs.
“There’s no obligation for the board to raise taxes to that limit,” he said.
Board members Craig Hummer, Michelle Pelna and M. Caroline Lalvani spoke in favor of pursuing the exceptions, but working “to drive that number down,” Pelna said.
“We take very seriously the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money,” Lalvani said.
Longridge also said that with the countywide reassessment, assessed values are up by about 30 percent, so the new millage rate will tentatively be 16.1, a decrease of about 30 percent.
New board member Menno Riggleman noted that the elderly community members don’t get pay increases and “we keep on moving up our millage,” making it unaffordable.
Longridge also gave an update on plans for Elizabethtown Borough’s walking path to traverse district property behind the middle school. The main unresolved issue is that the borough doesn’t want the district to restrict hours of access because it considers the path to be like a sidewalk. There will be further discussions with the borough.
In presenting the board with the high school educational planning guide, high school Principal Maura Hobson and Amanda Hann, assistant to the superintendent for learning, discussed the parent and student feedback that followed a proposal to replace the valedictorian/salutatorian rankings with a collegiate system that recognizes more students and also change the weighted grade system for some classes.
Hobson said more than 400 responses were received from students, with a lot of good questions. It was decided the current system would remain for now, but the proposal will be further discussed.