Ephrata Area School Board adopts 2019-2020 budget

By on June 19, 2019

EASD approved the district’s 2019-2020 budget Monday evening that includes a 1.75 percent tax increase equal to one-third of a mill.

Last year, residents paid 16.95 mills in real estate taxes, and that figure has now inched up to 17.25 mills.

In concrete terms, residents owning a home with an average assessment of about $172,000 would pay an increase of $51.66 in their property taxes for the coming year.

Last month, Board President Timothy Stayer, in his presentation to the board, said the maximum amount the board could levy this year, under state regulations, would be 2.8 percent.

Stayer cited financial challenges such as the increased cost of special education going to $243,320, district salaries and benefits increase of $47,690, and climbing charter school costs.

Federal revenue to the district has decreased this year by $23,290. When it comes to expenditures, salaries make up $30,530,649; taxes and benefits, $18,484,251; professional services (such as substitutes and IU-13) $3,311,589; supplies, including fuel oil and gas, $2,997,847; and transportation services, $4,795,830.

Another big unknown is property tax reform, which seems to be on the back burner of the state’s legislative proposals, but is expected to become a major election issue in the near future.

The board’s legislative liaison, Glenn Martin, told the board that discussion on property tax reform is expected to increase in the fall.

Currently, the state provides about 29 percent of the district’s budget, federal sources only 1.6 percent, and the rest, about 70 percent, is local taxpayer support.
A 25-page proposal for the budget, given to all board members, showed various scenarios regarding costs and revenues, going from a high of an increase of 2.3 percent to keeping the millage at the current level.

After the detailed presentation, Stayer said he would be comfortable with an increase of 1.75 percent.

“I’m going to propose a 1.75 percent increase, given we have a sufficient fund balance because it’s important to have a three-month fund balance (to cover expenses) in case of an unexpected event,” Stayer said.

With the increase of 1.75 percent, the district’s ending fund balance for 2019-2020 will be $16,649,536, while if the board had gone with a 2.3 percent increase, the fund balance would have been a slightly healthier $16,865,294.

A few years ago, when the state’s budget was not passed under deadline in June, only being agreed upon the following April, Ephrata’s solid fund balance carried them through those extra months –while some school districts had to take out loans to pay bills &tstr; Stayer said.

Then, there are the taxpayers, who shoulder the burden.

“Along with providing a good education for our students, we have to remember the taxpayers, too,” Stayer said.

Board member Glenn R. Martin agreed.

“When operating a school district, we need to continue to be prudent for our taxpayers, as well as educate our children,” Martin said.

Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop also weighed in.

“It is an important consideration to maintain a three-month fund balance, but I’m comfortable with a 1.75 percent increase,” Troop said. “It’s nice to know the board understands the needs of our taxpayers, too.”

Dr. Richard Hornberger earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration through Immaculate University.

Board members were nervous, not knowing how much funding the district would receive from the state since the state budget hasn’t been passed yet.

“But the state has a huge surplus this year and I think there’s going to be enough money to go around, so I recommend we go with 1.75 percent,” said board member David Wisler.

“I feel good about 1.75 percent,” said board member Philip Eby. “I feel we’re being responsible to our taxpayers by keeping that as low as we can. We’re striking a balance, doing the best we can for both our students and our taxpayers.”

Only board member Ted Kachel dipped a toe in the cold water of a higher tax increase.

“Maybe two percent would be better since we don’t know what the state is going to do (with district funding),” Kachel said.

In the end, the vote was unanimous for 1.75 percent.

Revenues for the 2019-2020 year are expected to be $70,611, 933.

In other business, Dr. Troop recognized Dr. Richard Hornberger for earning his doctorate. Dr. Hornberger is the assistant superintendent for the district.

The board also approved appointments to fill two administrative positions.

Jennifer Barnabei was appointed assistant principal at the Ephrata Intermediate School and Laura Jordan was appointed as the assistant coordinator of student support services.

Barnabei had recently served the district as the Fulton and Highland elementary schools library media specialist.

Jordan comes to the district after being assistant to the Director of Special Education and Gifted Services in the Eastern Lancaster County School District.

A number of students received district resolutions for their accomplishments in sports and in the Cloister FFA Chapter Monday evening.

Superintendent Troop surprised state champion runner Tyler Shue with a video of his state-winning performance, as he won the 800-meter run at Shippensburg University, becoming the fifth state champ in the school’s history.

Shue competed against athletes from several states to win the race.

Bryson Rhee was also recognized for being selected for the All-American LaCrosse team and is the leading scorer in the Lancaster-Lebanon League with 81 goals.
Mary Campbell received a resolution for breaking a school record in the Lancaster-Lebanon Field and Track meet.

Student Lily Moore was recognized for qualifying to compete in public speaking at the state FFA convention.

No school board meetings will be held in July.

Marylouise Sholly is a freelance feature writer for the Ephrata Review. She welcomes your comments and questions at weezsholly@verizon.net. 

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