How will raising proficiency and increasing the graduation rate help the Lehigh Valley?
A: The Educational Needs Index (ENI) has concluded that Allentown is ‘most critical’ in terms of economic viability. The future of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley rests on the quality of education we can provide for our students. The large local corporations will be seeking the knowledge and skills of the well educated younger population where they will have the opportunity to secure new positions, purchase homes and raise their families; in turn making a positive contribution back to the region. Without a strong educational system, students will continue to drop-out and likely enter into a life that will have a negative impact on the region; in turn costing the City and taxpayers more money over time.
What results can you show for the money that is being spent?
A: Graduation rates are now at 70% up from 67%; student attendance is over 90%; 37% less students are in ‘below basic’ in math; 10 out of 14 elementary schools are making annual yearly progress (AYP) and two others just missed; ASD middle schools are considered best value added in PA; Full-Day kindergarten has been implemented; 99% of teachers are highly qualified; and renovations to five existing schools, additions to both high schools and constructed a brand new elementary school.
Does the Allentown School District have measurable goals?
A: Yes, ASD will reduce the student drop-out number by 33% per four-year cohort (10% less per year, 478 for SY 2010-11; 431 for SY 2011-12; 388 for SY 2012-13; and 350 SY 2013-14) ASD will have more students proficient or advanced (7.1% more in reading, year 1; 6.2% more in math); improved schools safety (improve baseline data and incorporate parent survey data); and increase post-secondary matriculation rate (to 57%, year 1).
What are ASD’s administrative costs compared to its average daily membership?
A: In 2008-2009, ASD spent $558 per student which ranks 476th out of 500 school districts in terms of least amount of spending.
What are the most important things to know about the 2011-2012 budget?
A: The 2011-2012 budget starts out showing an $8.6 million deficit due to the use of non-reoccurring revenue from the prior year:
1. Appropriation of district fund balance; $5.8 million
2. ASD passed its budget prior to the State passing theirs (ASD must pass a budget by June 30); the result was $2.3 less in Basic Education Funding.
3. ASD refinanced two of its current bond issues; this generated $550,000 of one-time revenue to be used in 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Revenues are declining and expenditures are climbing:
1. Loss of Federal Stimulus Funding; $10 million
2. Increase healthcare and pensions costs
3. Declining tax base due to property assessment appeals
4. Decrease in investment earnings
What is Fund Balance?
A: Fund balance is the difference between assets and liabilities. When assets are greater than liabilities, the balance is positive. Fund balance is similar to a savings account; the balance in the account is not a reoccurring source of revenue.
Does the State limit the amount of fund balance a district can maintain?
A: Section 688 of the school code says that when the fund balance exceeds between 8% and 12% of expenditures, depending on the size of the budget, the district must consume any fund balance in excess of 8% prior to increasing taxes.
Is the Homestead/Farmstead exclusion still available?
A: Yes, this exclusion is still available, the homestead exclusion is a way to target real property tax relief to homeowners who have their permanent residence in the taxing jurisdiction (i.e. school district, county, or municipality). The homestead exclusion provides the same dollar tax reduction to all eligible properties in the taxing jurisdiction, including house on farms, condominiums, single family homes, and other places of permanent residence owned by the occupant.
How have the casinos helped reduced property taxes?
A: The State utilizes a portion of the gaming revenue to reduce local property taxes. Allentown residents have recognized a reduction in property taxes in the amount of $528 for each of the past two years.
If Allentown is getting so many grants, why is there such a big deficit?
A: Most grants that ASD receive are for a specific purpose and will increase the overall budget on both the revenue and expenditure side of the ledger; however, these grants are vital in providing the necessary resources that are needed for students to reach proficiency and for the district to reach its adequacy target.
What will replace the federal stimulus money?
A: The Federal Government has no plans for replacing these funds and we are not sure how the State is going to reconcile the loss of these funds as well.
Why does it cost more to educate an English Language Learner?
A: English Language Learners require a much smaller and more focused learning environment as well as additional resources. They essentially require almost one to one, student to teacher, interaction which in turn necessitates the need for smaller classrooms and additional staffing. ASD’s enrollment is 67% Latino; of which 40% are English Language Learners (ELL). 7,000 students currently are in, ore have been in, ELL programs.
Does the State limit how much a school district can raise taxes?
A: Yes, ACT 1 of 2006, the Pennsylvania Taxpayer Relief ACT; a tax rate increase is limited to an annual statewide index. The ACT 1 index for the 2011-2012 tax year is 1.4%; however, Allentown’s adjusted index is 2.1% due to its low market value/personal income.
Can a school district raise taxes above the index?
A: The State provides exceptions to the ACT 1 index which would allow a School Board to raise property taxes above the index without voter referendum. Exceptions granted by the PA Department of Education for the 2011-2012 budget year will allow School Boards to increase taxes above the ACT 1 index without seeking a referendum.