East Penn Press

Sunday, July 5, 2020

EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT

Thursday, May 14, 2020 by ED COURRIER Special to The Press in Local News

Tax increase possible to address shortfall

The East Penn Board of School Directors held its second virtual meeting May 11.

Board members and the general public attended the meeting remotely in real time via Zoom.

A request to address the board was granted to Everette Henry who asked what the district has planned for handling the start of the upcoming school year.

School Superintendent Kristen Campbell said the administration has been working on a plan and expects to have a brief overview at a later meeting. She said the school year will likely be different from what has been done in previous years, due to COVID-19. The district is looking at the possibility of incorporating extended social distancing and a continued use of online instruction.

Both Campbell and President Ken Bacher said final plans will be posted on the district website and social media.

Campbell and district Business Administrator Robert Saul provided a 2020-2021 final budget update presentation which addressed most of the projected shortfall in revenue due to COVID-19. Campbell proposed holding a special board meeting May 26 for additional updates and discussion, with a final presentation and adoption of the budget held at the regular June 8 meeting.

With a projected $148,812,216 in revenues to pay for an estimated $154,870,646 in expenditures, the administration proposed a combination of fixes for the $6,058,430 budget deficit. These include cutting building and department budgets by 10 percent which would save $700,000, $1,240,250 in staff reductions by attrition, a $500,000 capital reserve contribution, a $500,000 fund balance, debt restructuring for a savings of $950,000 and cutting $100,000 from conferences and substitutes. This would generate $3,990,250 in savings for the district. Campbell and Saul identified this as “Phase 1” which would include a possible 1.5 percent tax increase.

The Senior Citizens Real Estate Tax Rebate Program remains unchanged for now.

Saul and Campbell said they will continue to seek ways to reduce the remaining deficit of $2,068,180 through additional means in a Phase 2 proposal for the next meeting. These would include further staff reductions, eliminating courses with low enrollment and the Learning to Succeed Program, reducing transportation costs, delaying the technology refresh cycle and cuts to school clubs and activities.

Campbell said reducing expenditures would be made with the goal of not compromising the education of East Penn students.

Board members requested they look for ways to avoid any school tax increase, if possible.

Campbell acknowledged there may be a need for a Phase 3 budget reduction plan before a final budget can be approved and adopted.

The directors unanimously approved a change order proposal for $20,150 by Skepton Construction for the Emmaus High School turf and track project. James Lynch, principal and senior project manager of D’Huy Engineering said original plans for trucking soil from the Emmaus stadium to a stockpile on property owned by the general contractor was thwarted by tighter state regulations on what is considered “clean fill.” Under the new law, which took effect in January, the dirt being removed to make way for new artificial turf has too high a percentage of natural deposits of metals to be considered “not spoiled,” even though it is typical of what is found in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The contractor will need to relocate the soil to the existing softball field which is being converted into a multipurpose practice field. It will be graded and seeded for year-round play.

Lynch assured the reluctant directors this was the “lump sum” price for the additional work.

The board approved the 2020 list of Emmaus High School graduates. There are contingency plans for 2020 senior graduation in the works, Campbell said. Final plans for the event will be announced in the district newsletter and on social media.

In personnel matters, the board accepted the retirement of Willow Lane Elementary fourth grade teacher Doreen Brill, EHS English teacher Joseph Pirro, EHS school nurse Pamela Beaucamp and Lower Macungie Middle School school nurse Victoria Stenroos.

All took advantage of the early retirement incentive program. These retirements are effective in June.

The directors held a second reading and adoption of board policy updates with Assistant Superintendent Douglas Povilaitis. These included policies for attendance at board meetings via electronic communications, as well as student attendance, suspension and expulsion.

Director Jeffrey Jankowski reported on legislation to freeze all local school taxes at their current rates.

Saul was reappointed as treasurer for the upcoming school year.

Bacher announced there was an executive session before the evening’s public meeting 7 p.m. where they discussed litigation and negotiations.

The East Penn Board of School Directors will hold a special virtual meeting 7:30 p.m. May 26. The public can access documents through BoardDocs and register to attend the Zoom session via a link on the district website.