The Quakertown Community School Board voted 8-1 to raise taxes 2.7 percent in its 2019-20 budget, the amount allowed under the Act 1 index, on Thursday night.
Board President Steaven Klein, who has historically voted against tax increases, was the lone vote against the budget. The district has raised taxes every year since 1972.
The $115.38 million spending plan, 4.4 percent higher than a year ago, includes $800,000 in budgetary reserve. A homeowner with a property assessed at $23,857, the district average, will pay $106 more in 2019-20. The total property tax bill will rise to $4,028. The new millage rate will be 168.83, up from the current 164.39.
Prior to the board’s budget vote, Rich Harvey, the administrator of the Bucks County Agricultural Preservation Program, urged board members to consider adopting Act 153, which allows a freeze on school taxes for preserved farms in the district. There are 27 such properties, Harvey said.
Farmers in the program have been paid to give up the right to develop their property.
Act 153 would have to be passed by a board resolution to prevent future property tax increases. In Bucks County, Palisades, Council Rock and New Hope-Solebury have adopted the measure. Palisades, which has twice the number of preserved properties as Quakertown, has lost $50,000 in revenue under the provision, Harvey said.
“It reduces the financial burdens on farmers,” Harvey said. “It provides scenic vistas, protects our agricultural heritage, and supports an agricultural economy. It also preserves the rural character of Bucks County.”
All farmers in the program must also continue to farm their land, he said.
Also Thursday night, student representative Melissa Nong, a Quakertown Community High School junior, addressed student concerns and events happening in the high school.
Nong relayed student complaints over Quakertown’s tradition of sending graduating seniors to Florida, explaining that the tradition neglected senior students who could not afford the trip. She also noted the complaints of her peers regarding the installment of a new swipe-in security system to enter the high school.
She admitted, “Any immense change is usually met with resistance.”
Administrative changes in the district were also recognized. Alain Holly, an IT employee, was thanked for his service by Superintendent Dr. William Harner. Holly was part of the district’s installation of chrome books.
“It is a wonderful district. I will miss my time here,” said Holly, who is relocating to Waynesburg, Va. to be with the rest of his family.