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School board OKs 2019-20 final budget

The Northampton Area School District 2019-20 final general fund budget has been approved with a 1.97-percent tax hike of 1.06 mills.

The NASD Board of Education voted unanimously 9-0 at the June 10 meeting to approve the final general fund budget of $110,532,215.

The school board vote included approval of the 2019-20 athletic fund of $251,935 and the 2019-20 food services fund of $2,414,163.

The 1.06-mill increase raises the NASD millage from 53.83 mills to 54.89 mills.

Based on the 2018 average NASD residential property assessment of $59,444, which comprises 70 percent of the district, and a 2018-19 tax bill of $3,199.87, the new tax bill will be $3,263.48. The average tax bill will rise $63.61 annually, $5.30 monthly and $1.02 weekly.

Also approved in the school board vote was the Act 511 Local Tax Enabling Act, with a per capita tax of $5, real estate transfer tax of 0.5 percent and earned income tax of 0.7 percent, and Section 670 Pennsylvania School Code, which confirms the per capita tax of $5 and sets the 2019-20 NASD real estate tax at 54.89 mills.

“We worked for several months to reduce budget expenditures by $1.1 million,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said of his and NASD Business Administrator Terry Leh’s efforts.

Kovalchik noted when the budget was introduced in January, the budget had a 3.79-percent tax hike, later reduced to 2.69 percent and then to 1.97 percent.

“I can assure you that’s not so easy a task,” Kovalchik said. “We haven’t reduced programs, curriculum and staff.”

Kovalchik thanked the board and administration for helping to shape and finalize the budget.

“I think over the past few months, we’ve made tremendous strides in programs and the budget,” Kovalchik said.

After the meeting, board of education President David Gogel said, “We have kept all of our programs. We have kept all of our employees. We have expanded programs for students. We’re grateful that we can.”

It was the last budget go-round for Leh prior to his June 21 retirement.

“Congratulations to Terry Leh for his 11 years in the district. This is his last board meeting. We had many send-offs for Terry over the past few weeks,” Kovalchik said.

School directors and administrators gave Leh a round of applause.

School directors voted 9-0 to approve several appointments and other business at the June 10 meeting, including the appointment of Robert J. Steckel Jr. as NASD assistant superintendent of schools, at an initial salary of $130,000 annually for a term July 1 through June 30, 2022.

After the board meeting, Steckel said he is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at Lehigh University. He received a superintendent letter of eligibility from Lehigh University, where he completed course work with his employment as NASD assistant to the superintendent, fulfilling an internship requirement.

During the board meeting, Kovalchik reflected on the June 1 Northampton Area High School Class of 2019 commencement at Stabler Arena, Bethlehem.

“I received many positive comments about our students,” he said. “The students were very well behaved.”

Kovalchik thanked administrators, graduates and parents.

Andrew, the son of Kovalchik and his wife, Terry, is an NASD Class of 2019 graduate and will attend the University of Delaware. Their older son, Michael, is a rising senior at St. Joseph’s University.

“In their years of education (within NASD), I had minimal concern about their progress because of the board of education, administration and teachers. The program here is second to none,” Kovalchik said.

The NASD school board next meets 6:30 p.m. June 24 in the municipal building, 2014 Laubach Ave., Northampton.

From left, Terry Leh, retiring Northampton Area School District business administrator; Joseph S. Kovalchik, NASD superintendent of schools; Dawn Nickischer, NASD assistant business administrator; and Matthew Sawarynski, NASD business administrator, gather together for a group photo at the June 10 NASD Board of Education meeting.PRESS PHOTOS BY PAUL WILLISTEIN