Here’s your quick and dirty guide to the East Penn School Board meeting held this past Monday. There were two main topics of interest to the community:
Preliminary Budget for 2020-2021
The administration presented the first snapshot of their vision for the upcoming year’s district budget. It included estimated changes in revenue and expenditures, as well as a list of the district’s priorities for any possible new spending. This initial snapshot is only the beginning of a long budgeting process that will take place over the next five months. The final budget will look much different than this preliminary one, as more accurate figures for budget estimates come in and the administration works with the board to identify potential cost savings and discuss priorities. You can watch the whole presentation here and see the official budget documents here. Let me offer a couple of observations at this early stage:
- There is a hard cap of 3% on any potential tax increase this year. This is because the board has already voted to limit any tax increase to no more than the official education cost inflation rate set by the state, known as the Adjusted Act 1 Index. While this is the upper limit, I think we can all agree that we’d prefer something lower! And there’s reason for optimism: last year the Adjusted Act 1 Index for our district was 2.7% and we managed to pass a budget with ZERO tax increase.
- The most significant driver of increased costs to the district this year is healthcare. The district’s healthcare costs are estimated to increase by 5% in this budget (though there is reason to believe the real figure will be closer to 4.25%).
- Administration priorities for the coming year focus almost entirely on special education needs. More than 92% of the proposed spending on new staff positions would go to special education, including emotional support, learning support, behavior support, special education inclusion, and educational alternatives. You can watch just the presentation of these priorities here.
To learn more about the budget process, I encourage you to check out my short-and-sweet School Budget 101 guide:
The Jefferson Elementary Playground Permanently Preserved
As I noted last fall, much of the playground area for Jefferson Elementary School has not actually been owned by the school district. The playground was built on land originally held by Rodale and more recently purchased by Wesley Works Properties. Monday night the board unanimously agreed to purchase the property from Wesley Works at it’s current market value. Previous owners Wes Barrett and Sarah Stauffer also agreed to deduct the $4,500 in rent the district has paid for use of the land since last fall from the purchase price. This means not only that we can preserve the outdoor play space for Jefferson students, but also that we may be able address other potential issues– like parking– in the future. See the sales documents here; Superintendent Campbell’s comments on the purchase here.