Archive for category bethlehem area school district

Take a look inside Freedom High School’s time capsule (PHOTOS)

The school discovered a time capsule while preparing for the anniversary celebration.

Freedom High School Principal Michael LaPorta was deep in preparations for the 50th annivers…

Bethlehem charter school to get 5 more years with enrollment cap

Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School has agreed to limit the number of Bethlehem Area School District students it enrolls.

The Bethlehem Area School District plans to …

2 teens arrested in Liberty High School bomb threat

Each was charged with a felony after the building had to be evacuated and searched, Bethlehem police said.

Bethlehem policed arrested a sophomore and junior at Liberty High…

Liberty High School determined safe after bomb threat

Authorities searched the building.

UPDATE: 2 teens arrested in Liberty High School bomb threat
Liberty High School was evacuated Friday morning due to a bomb threat, Bethleh…

Schools, neighborhood take shelter during police standoff with homicide suspect

Bethlehem Township residents were advised to shelter in place.

UPDATE: Standoff over: Suspect in custody, schools’ lockdown lifted
At least four Bethlehem area schools were …

Why Bethlehem schools are owed almost $500K from the state

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced the findings of the audit, which turned up the transportation reimbursement error.

A state audit revealed that the Bethlehem Area…

Pa. school districts worry bill puts millions of dollars in jeopardy

An amended bill passed in Harrisburg could solve the problem if it is sent to the state Senate.

On Wednesday, the state House passed an amended version of a bill aimed at curtail…

5 things to know from Monday’s Bethlehem school board meeting

It was a fast, but busy meeting.

Monday night’s Bethlehem Area School Board regular monthly meeting was quick, but the board tackled a lot of things.
Here’s a run down on wh…

Bethlehem school board backs lowest average tax hike in years

But Lehigh County residents will feel a lot more pain due to a state calculation change.

Bethlehem Area School District tax bills will rise 1.24 percent on average,&nbs…

Bethlehem schools’ lowest tax hike in years still has pain

A change in a state calculation means higher taxes for the district’s Lehigh County residents.

While the Bethlehem Area School Board is proposing one of its smallest tax hikes in recent years, the news isn’t good for taxpayers in the Lehigh County section of the district. 

On Monday night, the board voted 7-1 to approve a $268.4 million proposed final budget that would increase taxes by 2.31 percent on average. Director Tom Thomasik voted against the plan and Director Shannon L. Patrick was absent due to a personal emergency.

But the average is a bit misleading as Lehigh County taxpayers will see a much larger tax hike due to a change in a state calculation. 

“That is not due to any actions of the school district,” Superintendent Joseph Roy said.

The median Northampton County homeowner’s tax bill would rise by $72 under the proposal. In neighboring Lehigh County, the median bill would rise by almost $154.

The proposed tax increase is below the district’s Act 1 Index of 3.1 percent and lower than the 2.95 percent hike in the spending plan floated last month.

  Northampon Lehigh BASD average
Proposed budget tax impact 2.20% 2.82% 2.31%
Multi-county rebalancing impact 0 3.57%  
Overall proposed tax change 2.20% 6.39%  

Roy said the administration further scaled back the budget since Lehigh County homeowners were seeing such a larger increase.

Because the district spans two counties, it needs the state to determine each county’s share of the tax burden to set its annual tax millage rate. That is done by coming up with common level ratios of assessed value to market value.

This year, the State Equalization Tax Board stopped counting the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and other properties lying within a South Bethlehem tax incremental financing district as part of Northampton’s market value.

The board argued the new market values of the TIF properties had been improperly included for the past 15 years. The district argued that Bethlehem’s TIF is unique because the district does get some of the new money the properties generate.

In the end, the state agreed to count a portion of the properties, but it still resulted in a major shit of the tax burden to Lehigh County.

How an accounting error could have spiked your school tax bills

The budget continues to push the district’s major educational initiative such as reading on grade level by third grade while controlling spending, Roy said. He noted many worthwhile initiatives didn’t make it into the budget because of cost concerns.

The district began the budget process with a $12.56 million deficit, which has been closed by tapping $4 million from its savings and cutting spending. The budget cuts include six teaching positions, two guidance counselors and four instructional aides through attrition. It also reduces social workers the district hires as contractors in the two high schools.

Director Dean Donaher said Bethlehem wouldn’t have had to raise taxes the last five years if it wasn’t funding skyrocketing pension and charter school costs. He said he’s not anti-charter but wants a level playing field, like cyber charter tuition reimbursement at actual cost.

Donaher urged state lawmakers to tackle those issues and take a strong look at properly funding public education at the state level.

“Kids are getting the education they need because the local taxpayer picks up the tab year after year,” said Michael Faccinetto, school board president.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at ssatullo@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo and Facebook. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.