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New Hope-Solebury eyes final budget with 2% tax increase


The May 18 New Hope-Solebury School Board meeting was eventful as honors and mentions were made for prizes won and records broken but the main event was the presentation of the proposed final budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

The budget shows a deficit, but there is a reserve. Expenditures ($48,308,308) and revenue ($48,044,440) totals were laid out by board member and Finance Committee Chairman John Augenblick. He reported that the committee was recommending a 2% tax increase lower than the amount allowed by the state’s 4.1% Act 1 Index.

The school budget process is governed by Act 1 of 2006, which establishes a set index that property taxes cannot be raised beyond.

The budget shows a deficit, but there is a reserve. On the expenditures side, the increase of 5.6% is structural.

“When you unpack the increase it is due to a couple of major factors,” Augenblick said. “Increase in teachers’ contracts, a transportation manager, salaries to attract the right professions for HR and Athletic Director.”

It was also noted there was a 17% increase in transportation costs.

On the revenue side, it was reported investment income was higher than previous years due to higher interest rates. The 2% tax increase would generate $625,000 in revenue. There was also a one-time deposit of $1.25 million owing to a legal settlement paid to a resident and taxed as income.

In light of expenses going up 5.6% and only recommending a 2% increase on the revenue side, Augenblick said one might wonder if that will create a systemic widening of the two sides.

“When you look at the district’s financial performance, now and in the past, you’ll find a consistent surplus because of the expense side.” he said.

His philosophy was not to conflate the $1.25 million infusion as a sign to not raise taxes.

“That would be harmful to the district and to the taxpayers in the end,” he said. “There are a lot of moving pieces and parts.”

The proposed final budget will be reviewed and refined, if needed, prior to approval it in its final form at the public meeting on June 22.

In other meeting news, Superintendent Dr. Charles Lentz announced Eva Houlton as the second runner up in the Bucks County Youth Poetry Contest. Youth Art Exhibition awards were presented to Eliana Price, Annabel Kershaw, Charlie Moore, and Alexandria Elias.

Also, 40 students contributed to the high school newspaper, The Lion’s Tale, which won first place honors from The American Scholastic Press Association for the 5th year in a row.

Board member Montu Patel reported that it was standing room only at the last MBIT meeting where 37 students were inducted into The National Honor Society for technical studies and 125 students were placed in work-based education opportunities in local community businesses.

In the area of facilities, the disparity in permit costs between New Hope Borough and Solebury Township was discussed. Solebury has charged much less as opposed to New Hope. “It is significant,” said President Judy Finn, “Six digit significant. There’s got to be a happy medium in there because it comes from our taxpayers.”

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