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Palisades continues to fund major capital projects without tax hikes, loans


The Palisades School District is continuing to take advantage of budgeted funds not spent in a given budget year by adding them to savings balances that are kept to fund capital projects and other needs. In any year, each of any transfers of such funds to savings balances requires board approval.

During discussion at the June 7 school board meeting, before unanimous approval of the no-tax increase budget for 2023-2024, the not-spent money for the 2022-2023 year was projected to be as much as $4 million.

“This does not happen every year,” noted district Business Administrator Drew Bishop, in an email after the meeting. “For example, the 21-22 year ended with a $773,000 surplus. At the end of that year, that money was put back as capital funds for 22-23.”

By keeping the savings fund balances, the district avoids the need for tax increases or loans for major capital projects, such as this year’s roof replacement for Tinicum Elementary School, or the recent addition of a state-of-the-art science wing for Palisades High School. Another savings fund balance has similarly been available for increased pension costs.

“We’ve had good staffs over the years,” noted longtime board member James Hallowell, in a conversation after the meeting. “I remember a major capital project for the tech school where we paid our contribution in cash, and the other two (contributing) districts had to go for bonds.”

The district’s millage rate currently stands as the lowest among 13 county districts, given a very different Earned Income Tax contribution rate in one of them. Palisades has had little or no tax increases over the last 10 years, while pension and charter school costs have risen dramatically.

Also at the June 7 meeting, the board unanimously approved the 2023-2024 budget for the Upper Bucks County Technical School. Following extensive, and often bitter, discussion of the motion to approve that budget at their May 3 meeting, the board had failed to reach a majority for approval.

During the June 7 discussion, board members noted that the school’s joint operating committee had approved a contract extension for the executive director by a 5-4 margin. During the May 15 meeting of the Palisades fiscal committee, officials noted “continued concern about the dissemination of information regarding the cafeteria expansion and the roof/barn projects” there.

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