Upper Adams School Board approves preliminary budget with 3% tax hike

Upper Adams School Board on Tuesday approved a preliminary 2023-2024 budget with a proposed 3% tax hike, but that figure may decrease by the final budget’s adoption.

A tax increase of 3% would generate $408,246 in additional revenue for the district, according to district budget documents. This would cost a homeowner an additional $87.12 annually for a home assessed at $185,750.

School districts are required by the state to adopt a final budget by June 30. By law, the final budget may be less than the preliminary budget, but not greater.

As of the April 18 school board meeting, Upper Adams Business Administrator Shelley Hobbs projected a deficit of approximately $1.8 million for next school year’s budget. She also expected this year’s budget to end in the red by about $174,000.

However, those numbers have changed since new information has been gathered regarding state funding, tax revenue, interest, and decreases in technology expenses.

Hobbs said Tuesday she is now predicting the district will end fiscal year 2023 with more than $392,000 in additional revenue. And instead of finding a way to balance a difference of $1.8 million for the 2023-2024 budget, that figure is now projected to be closer to $1.4 million.

Hobbs projected Tuesday the district will have about $3.6 million in its unassigned fund balance heading into next school year, which can be used to cover the $1.4 million difference.

The unassigned fund balance, akin to a rainy day fund, is there for unexpected expenses and can also be used to help balance the budget. The district is required by the state to maintain a certain amount of money in the unassigned fund balance.

Unexpected increases in tax revenue last month improved the budget outlook.

As of April, the district collected almost $71,000 more in local taxes than it had budgeted for, according to Hobbs. Additionally, she is predicting the district will receive about $35,000 more than expected in interim taxes, and earned income tax is expected to come in at about $100,000 higher.

Interest on the district’s cash reserve balances is projected to bring in an additional $115,000, Hobbs said.

The new figures seemed to reassure some school officials.

“I think it’s easy to see how the information continues to change as we get more data,” Superintendent Wesley Doll said. “I’m feeling more and more comfortable as well as we’re looking at some of these numbers … .”

Board Vice President Tom Wilson, who in April predicted the district would need a significant tax increase, said Tuesday he was now leaning toward no tax increase at all.

“Expenditures have come down and revenue has gone up,” Wilson said. “Everything’s going in the right direction.”

Board member Gerald Walmer said he felt encouraged by the figures. It appears that without raising taxes, the district would still have a “nest egg” in its rainy day fund, he said.

Three new educator positions are on the table next month as the board prepares to adopt a final budget. An elementary special education professional, secondary math professional, and secondary building substitute would cost about $187,000.

New band uniforms are also being considered at a cost of $20,000.

The board is expected to discuss the budget at its June 6 meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. The board will then meet at 7 p.m. on June 20 to adopt the final budget.

Seed money

In other business Tuesday, a few founding members of the new Gardening Club shared the fruits of their labor with the board.

Fifth-grade students Emanuel Aguilar-Apolinar, Layton Pryor, Zachary Schroeder, and Cooper Vranich started the club at Upper Adams Intermediate School this year with the support of Principal Sonia Buckley. The latter three boys updated the board on their activity.

Inspired by a lesson in hydroponics, the students took what they learned and planted vegetables in the school courtyard. The boys said they researched which plants would grow best. They planted lettuce, spinach, super snappy peas, snowbird peas, kale, Swiss chard, and radishes.

The young gardeners detailed their triumphs and errors — such as mistaking the Swiss chard for weeds.

The students harvested their fresh produce and offered it to the staff in exchange for donations to fund the club’s future endeavors. The boys saved some for the school board, though, and proudly passed out green plastic containers full of fresh vegetables at the board meeting.

Lunches and diplomas

The board voted to raise lunch prices by 10 cents to keep up with rising food, labor, and equipment costs. For the 2023-2024 school year, lunch will cost $2.95 at Biglerville Elementary and Upper Adams Intermediate School. Lunch will cost $3.20 at the middle and high schools. The cost of free and reduced meals remains the same.

Also on Tuesday, the board voted 7-2 to add the PA Seal of Biliteracy to student diplomas for those who qualify. The seal is an award made by the state department to recognize students who have attained proficiency in English and one additional language by the time they graduate high school, according to the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association’s website.

Walmer and board member Cindy Janczyk voted against the motion. Walmer said while biliteracy is important, he is a “diploma purist” and did not want to set a precedent.

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Mary Grace Kauffman, freelance reporter, worked six years as a full-time reporter for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Maryland. She has covered topics including business, crime, education, government and features. Mary Grace has a bachelor's degree in communication/journalism from Shippensburg University. She resides in Adams County.

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Annette Ehly
Annette Ehly
9 months ago

I think the PA Seal of Biliteracy is a great idea. How fabulous to be bilingual & be recognized for your effort. Not sure what it means to be a “diploma purist”?

9 months ago
Reply to  Annette Ehly

Annette, an example would be when I graduated high school some decades ago in the Midwest, it was common enough to know generational German-Americans who spoke both languages fluently. They received no special recognition for this ability on their diploma nor having it mentioned when they walked up to receive said diploma on graduation day. That’s a “traditional” way to graduate and probably what “diploma purist” means in above discussion. Hope explanation helps!

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