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Bracing for an impending school tax rate increase

Bill Greenlaw

By David Hulse
June 18, 2013

Delaware Valley School District’s six year run of school budgets with zero tax rate increases is likely coming to an end but some residents say it should not.

At their upcoming June 21 meeting, the last before the end of budget year, the board of education is expected to adopt a $70.6 million budget for 2013-14, which will incorporate 2.3 percent increase in the district tax rate.

The district’s year-end budget surplus prompted several residents to question the tax increase at Thursday’s board meeting, prompting an hour of debate on a subject still sore with board members.

While Mike Bouquet credited the work of the school faculty as well as that of the board, he said the district should be using its surplus to offset the tax increase. Bouquet said he was not speaking for himself, but for many residents in bad economic straits, who simply can not afford the increased cost now as families are leaving the area and school population declines. “Delay the vote. Dig deeper,” he asked.

Board president Bill Greenlaw said the district has been addressing the falling student population through staff attrition. “People have left, but not because of zero increase,” he said.
Greenlaw detailed $1.6 million in increased salaries and insurance costs. He said he too once sat in the audience and argued against tax increases, but has now decided this year’s increase is unavoidable.

Board member John Wroblewski said no business or government can maintain services and deal with rising cost indefinitely without new revenues. “If taxes are not increased it would be irresponsible.

For several years the board has debated its planned surpluses, which are related to the state pension system, PSERS, which has projected large contribution increases in coming years.

Wroblewski said that DV will be facing a $3.2 million increase in pension contributions by 2019. “We can’t increase our revenues $3.2 million without raising taxes,” Wroblewski said.

Board members oppose say the state will reform the funding for PSERS. Board member Jessica Decker said predicting the big PSERS costs hike was “unfair and misleading the public.”
Board member Bob Goldsack said the budgeted surplus made him uncomfortable. He said, “As a business man I take risks,” suggesting that the risk of the PSERS cost increase did not justify the tax increase.

PSERS increases are “not going away. They’re happening and they are happening to us,” Wroblewski replied.

Business Manager Bill Hessling said the only new initiatives in the budget were for increased campus security and the replacement of obsolete lap top computers.