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School board approves 2021-22 budget

The Northampton Area School District 2021-22 final budget has been approved, with a 1.5-percent tax hike, by a 7-2 vote at the June 14 board of education meeting.

Voting for the 2021-22 budget were school Directors Dr. Michael Baird, John Becker, James Chuss, Jennifer Johnson, Ross Makary, Robert Mentzell and board Vice President Chuck Frantz.

School Director Roy Maranki and board President David Gogel voted to not approve the budget. Maranki and Gogel have consistently voted against the 2021-22 budget because they didn’t want a tax hike.

A copy of the 2021-22 final budget is available on the district website, nasdschools.org.

Approved in the final budget is the general fund of $116,393,720, food service fund of $2,502,658 and athletic fund of $257,494.

The 1.5-percent real estate tax hike translates to - based on the district average assessment of $54,900, which represents 50 percent of households in the NASD - an annual increase per taxpayer of $45.

Approved as part of the final budget was the Act 511 local tax enabling act with a per capita tax of $5, real estate transfer tax at 0.5 percent and earned income tax at 0.7 percent, as well as the Section 670 Pennsylvania school code with a per capital tax of $5 and real estate tax of 55.71 mills.

Earlier proposed budgets had larger tax hikes, but board members unofficially voted to lower it to 1.5 percent at the April 26 meeting. Maranki and Gogel voted for a zero-percent tax hike.

Maranki cited the burden to senior citizens as the reason he voted against the budget.

During the public comment portion on agenda items and before the budget vote at the June 14 meeting, three district residents spoke about the final budget’s tax hike.

“I’m asking board members to vote against a tax hike,” said Kim Bretzik, of Chapman. ”We’re not out of the woods with COVID-19. Prices are going up. We’re acting like this is business as usual.”

Bretzik suggested a salary freeze as a viable option to help avoid a tax increase.

“It’s a difficult situation, not for me, but for a lot of people out there,” said Paul Nikisher, of Lehigh Township.

“That was the same when I first asked several months ago,” Jerry Pritchard, of Lehigh Township, said of the budget and tax hike.

In other business, the board voted 9-0 to approve a change in position and employment agreement for Dr. Michelle Schoeneberger from director of curriculum to assistant superintendent of schools for an initial salary of $130,000, for a term July 1-June 30, 2026.

“I’m very honored to serve Northampton Area School District,” Schoeneberger said. “It’s great to be part of a great school district.”

Schoeneberger succeeds Dr. Robert J. Steckel Jr., who resigned in April to accept appointment as Whitehall- Coplay School District superintendent of schools.

“The director of curriculum position will be eliminated,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said during the meeting. “It will be handled by the assistant superintendent. In the long run, there will be a savings of $100,000 to $200,000.”

The NASD Board of Education’s next scheduled meeting is 6:30 p.m. June 28 in the cafeteria of Northampton Area Middle School, 1617 Laubach Ave., Northampton.

PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL WILLISTEIN Northampton Area School District Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik congratulates Dr. Michelle Schoeneberger on her appointment as assistant superintendent at the June 14 school board meeting. Schoeneberger previously served as director of curriculum.