Quakertown Community property owners will face another tax increase this year, and possibly for the next several years as expenditures continue to exceed revenues.
Total expenditures will outpace revenues through the 2023-2024 school year with deficits well over a million dollars, according to a long-range forecast by financial consultants PFM. But, as is the case with this year, these can be whittled down. The district faced a $2.5 million deficit earlier this year, but this has been significantly reduced to a projected $1.4 million.
The 2.7 percent tax increase, the maximum allowed under the Act 1 index, translates to $106 more in taxes for the average homeowner.
The district has no plans to leave positions vacant or lay off teachers and other staff despite a forecast decrease of 347 students over the next five years. Instead, they and other staff may be reassigned based on need. The administration says it is focused on lowering student-teacher and student-aide ratios.
Like many districts, teacher salaries and benefits, which include retirement and other fixed costs, consume about 60 percent of expenditures. Five-year budget projections show it rising from $73 million this year to just over $81 million by the 2023-2024 school year. However, Chief Operating Officer Zach Schoch said in a statement that the figures are in line with expectations.
“The projected increases moving forward are in line with spending during the prior five years. The salary increases are contractual, and the benefits include rising PSERS costs and assumptions that medical insurance and prescription coverage will continue to move higher, which is a national challenge.”
Board member Kaylyn Mitchell lamented the latest tax hike but said without one the district would have to reduce staff and eliminate programs.
But at the last week’s board meeting, two members of the public weren’t having it. Vic Bartholomew of Milford Township said until the district can balance the budget without any more tax increases there should be no more unnecessary spending, and no pay increases for staff.
Former board member Stephen Ripper also expressed his displeasure. Ripper said half of his Social Security check goes to taxes each month, and he accused the district of taxing residents out of their homes. “At some point, you’re going to have to consider cutting programs because you’re chasing people out of the community.”
The final budget will be up for adoption June 6.