EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
Business Administrator Robert Saul presented the East Penn Board of School Directors with a revised proposed final budget at the March 26 meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder was pleased to inform the directors the proposed tax increase would move from 2.8 percent to 1.92 percent due to increased revenue while the budget reserve remains at 5 percent. Saul explained a new warehouse and apartment complex brought in significantly higher assessments which will bring in tax revenue. The board does not vote on the budget until April 23.
The district is looking into debt service refinancing.
Scott Shearer, managing director of Public Financial Management and Ken Phillips from RBC Capital Markets walked board members through a presentation on how that would work. The goal is to decide if it is worth it for the district to replace its variable rates with a fixed rate for four outstanding loans. The timeline includes a decision by the board to pass a parameters resolution by the April 9 meeting and locking the rates later in the month with settlement of the financing in May.
In other business, Dr. Linda Pekarik, director of special education and her team presented the directors with a well-received special education comprehensive plan. The district will continue to comply with state plan requirements to offer a full range of special education services, programs and alternative placements, according to Pekarik. The number of East Penn teachers for the various special education needs remains in compliance, as well.
“Some students have significant needs that we cannot support them within the district,” Pekarik said. “We look to the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit for support.”
East Penn has access to CLIU 21 programs for those who are deaf or hearing impaired. There are programs for life skills support, enhanced autism and emotional support, plus support for students with multiple disabilities.
For students whose needs go beyond what the district and IU can support, they are sent to “least restrictive environment facilities” some of which are private schools. These include Hogan Learning Center, Devereux and Foundations – Bucks County IU #22 for autistic support. The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf supports the deaf and hard of hearing. Abraxys, Behavorial Health Associates, Centennial and Lehigh Learning Academy enroll children needing emotional support. Students with multiple disabilities find support at St. Joseph’s Center – Northeastern IU #19. There are 25 East Penn students who require the most intense programs placed in these facilities.
Pekarik pointed out that in 2012-2013 special education enrollment was at 13.1 percent of the total student population. Enrollment has gradually risen to 17.5 percent in 2017-2018. Autism disability enrollment also went up from 117 students in 2012-2013 to 173 students in 2017-2018.
The district’s online Parent Training Institute is a useful resource for parents of special needs children and exceeds state requirements, Pekarik said.
A source of pride for the department is the Emmaus High School Buddy Lunch Program where members of the football team befriend special needs students September through December.
The CLIU recently added more classrooms for autistic students reported Director Carol Allen.
Director Charles Ballard mentioned no significant progress on the state budget from Harrisburg.
There was no executive session scheduled for the evening.
The East Penn Board of School Directors will meet 7:30 p.m. April 9 in the board room of the administration building.