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Palisades budget calls for no tax increase, hiring school security officer


While expenditures for the proposed final 2023-2024 budget for the Palisades School District are projected to increase by 2.4 percent, the budget is still to be balanced without a tax increase.

The school board, by a 7-1 vote, acted to assure that at its May 3 meeting. Final adoption of the budget is set for the board’s June 7 meeting. According to state-mandated procedures, expense cuts are still possible by then, but not any cost increases, or any change in the zero tax increase.

One element in the increased expenditures is a significant new line for a school security officer.

Following the recommendation of a special ad hoc committee, the board voted 7-1 later in the meeting to direct Superintendent Dr. Bridget O’Connell “to begin all necessary actions to employ an armed school police officer, or school security guard.” Discussion featured agreement that much of the new position’s description remained to be defined and worked out, with action taken now to assure availability for the 2023-2024 school year.

During his presentation of the budget earlier in the meeting, Business Administrator Drew Bishop reviewed district budget trends for the past 10 years, highlighted by little or no tax increases, while pension and charter school costs rose dramatically, and the district’s millage rate, currently standing as the lowest among 13 county districts.

During discussion of the proposed budget, several board members expressed concern about the level of district savings set to balance the budget if needed.

The board also approved an updated, four-page job description for its district business administrator position, as a first step in finding a replacement for Bishop, who is leaving after 10 years in that job and seven years before that in support roles, for a similar position in another district.

He was lauded by board and staff for exceptional service to the district. Asked after the meeting if he was leaving for any reason other than a better opportunity, in light of concern during the public comment session, he replied “no.”

Following extensive, and often bitter, discussion of the motion to approve the 2023-2024 budget for the Upper Bucks County Technical School, which the district shares with the Pennridge and Quakertown districts, the board failed to reach a majority for approval.

Opponents expressed deep concerns about how the process was handled, while emphasizing still strong support for the school. The Palisades portion of the proposed budget is 11 percent, down from 13 percent last year. Further consideration of the matter awaits completion of action on it by the other two districts.

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