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COO presents “need-based” New Hope-Solebury budget


The newly reorganized New Hope-Solebury School Board held its first regular meeting on the eve of the winter solstice, Dec. 20, with Deirdre Alderfer the new board president and Charles Lentz, the new superintendent.

The superintendent’s first board report was preceded by the first regular report at a board meeting by Liam Ajmeri and Josephine Taggi, students of the Lower Elementary School.

Superintendent Lentz complimented the music department for its recent concerts and said he is getting accustomed to the new position. He said the school offices would be open Dec. 26-31 and promised to make the recent demographic study of the district available at the February meeting.

Chief Operations Officer Andrew Lechman presented the proposed preliminary budget for 2019-2020, which he described as a “need based” budget with every department deciding what it really needs. This year’s Act I index is 2.3 percent, which is the maximum increase a school board can make without a public referendum. The index changes annually.

Lechman said the district hopes to stay at or below the index but in that several line items are uncertain at this time he suggested the board apply for exceptions specifically to cover the cost of retirements and special education that would allow the tax rate to go to 2.75 percent without a referendum. This is the only time in the budget preparation timeline when an exception can be applied for so the board approved it “just in case.”

Lechman explained the nature of the fund balance, describing the fund as something used in a one-time situation and not to cover recurring costs. The board has been discussing a new fund – specifically money put aside for emergency situations.

The preliminary budget presented by Lechman has an expenditure bottom line of $42.12 million with local revenue covering 84 percent and the state 16 percent. He showed a pie chart in which personnel costs account for 73 percent and of the rest only about 7 percent is somewhat malleable.

Lechman assured everyone that this was not a final budget but just early in the process with the final budget to be approved in June.

Mark Cowell reported from the finance committee that the committee had received a presentation of the budget. He commented that there remains a $95,000 shortfall in the cost of the Revitalization project.

Chairs and board committee members for the coming year are: Curriculum Advisory Chair Andrew Ordover, member Liz Sheehan, Facilities Chair John Capriotti, with Deidre Alderfer and Mark Cowell as members.

Finance will be chaired by Cowell, with Capriotti and Stan Marcus as members. Policy and Human Resources is chaired by Douglas McDonough with Marcus and Ordover who is also a member of the special education committee chaired by Dana Schwartz.

Alderfer announced that while the public is always welcome at committee meetings, to become a member one should look on listserv for an application, which is filled out and brought to that committee meeting for approval.

The next regular board meeting is Jan. 24.