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School District OKs Special Exception for Higher Taxes

The Bensalem Township School District is seeking authorization from the state to raise taxes higher than permitted under the Act 1 index.

The Bensalem Township School District is seeking authorization from the state to raise taxes higher than permitted under the Act 1 index. Photo credit: Theresa Katalinas
The Bensalem Township School District is seeking authorization from the state to raise taxes higher than permitted under the Act 1 index. Photo credit: Theresa Katalinas
The Bensalem Township School Board on Wednesday adopted its $132.4 million preliminary budget, putting the wheels in motion for a tax increase roughly 1.5 times higher than the amount allowed under state law. 

Under Act 1, school districts are permitted to raise taxes in the 2014-2015 school year by a maximum of 2.1 percent. The district, however, is seeking special exceptions, which, if granted, would increase taxes by an estimated 3.2 percent. 

The proposed millage rate for the 2014-2015 fiscal year is 148.9692. For the owner of a home with an average assessed value of $21,000, that translates to $97 more per year in taxes for 2014-2015 as compared to currently, Kenneth Medina, the district’s director of business operations told Patch previously.

Medina said on Wednesday that he did not know the State Department of Education's "time line" for approving special exceptions, but said the final authorization would be necessary prior to final budget adoption, which is slated for June 18. 

Board members Kevin McKay and Matthew Grodsky voted against adoption of the preliminary budget. 

Medina told Patch earlier this month that the $78 million renovation and addition at Bensalem High School, as well as a 21 percent increase in the Public School Employees' Retirement System and double-digit medical insurance costs warranted the need for taxes higher than permitted under Act 1. 

Next steps

  • The school board will hold a budget work session on Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Adoption of the proposed final budget is slated for May 14 at 7:30 p.m. 
  • A public question and answer session for the proposed final budget will be May 28 immediately following the 7:30 p.m. action meeting. 
  • The final budget will be adopted on June 18 at 7 p.m. 
George Bambooshack January 22, 2014 at 09:11 PM
Let's get real people. People in the work force and people who are retired aren't getting a 3.2 percent increase this year. What gives the school district the right to raise taxes above the law? and why do the teachers get special privileges for their health care and retirement, when no one else does?
George Bambooshack January 22, 2014 at 09:13 PM
Maybe if they keep it up people will move out of Bensalem and somewhere else and they won't have any kids to send to the schools.
james bailey January 23, 2014 at 06:28 AM
This is why HB/SB76 needs to be put through. Everyone needs to contact their Representative and Senator to help get HB/SB76 School Tax Elimination passed. BNESALEM homeowners please check into this bill. It is a WIN WIN for everyone involved. Elections will be coming around again and if we can't get REP DiGirolamo and Senator Tomlinson on board with HB/SB76 School Tax Elimination it is time to get them out of office and get someone voted in that is truly for the HOMEOWNERS of BENSALEM!
George Bambooshack January 23, 2014 at 08:36 AM
I agree. This sounds like a solid plan that could help us survive. :)
Joan Schleinkofer January 23, 2014 at 08:50 AM
Have all of the fines/stolen funds been repaid by the thieves that took it (can you tell I'm still bitter about this)? What about all those who live in the many apartment buildings in Bensalem and send their children to Bensalem public schools - do they pay some type of "school tax" or do they go for free? I'm getting tired of working hard, carrying the load for everyone and getting nowhere. How is the working middle class expected to survive with no pay raises and constant cost increases in everything from medical costs/co-pays, food, utilities, and now increased taxes? Sorry needed to vent....
chattypatty226 January 23, 2014 at 08:57 AM
I was at a budget meeting.... This is a disgrace what these people want!!! Let the School Dist employees PAY THEIR OWN Premiums. Every other place of employment has to pay heavy increases in their medical coverage, these people can pay theirs, like we all do! Why should we have to pay ours & THEIRS???? Not once was it mentioned of the employees pay their premiums & increases! How about since the economy is so bad & most people haven't had pay increases in several years, the school dist employees shouldn't get a pay increase either. The POOR report card from the state that our elementary schools got, shows that perhaps, they don't even deserve a pay increase. All the taxes we pay, they didn't even have the resources & help my Autistic son needed to have, they let him struggle all 6 yrs in grade school! & they want money for themselves!!!??? For their Retirement & their insurance coverage???? They have to be out of their minds. They want to take good care of themselves!! Look at what the Superintendent makes!!!! He isn't worth that! He doesn't do a good job, he deserves a reduction in pay, not an increase. Look how good he did with "watching" what was going on with the heavy theft with transportation!!!! That went on for several years & he never knew it!!!??? He didn't question all the money they were blowing through???? Why should us tax payers have to pay for them????? A TOTAL DISGRACE!!!!!
willbonner January 23, 2014 at 09:22 AM
School Tax exception/ Raising Taxes (AGAIN) What else is new. I vote/ No No No No.*
P2YA January 23, 2014 at 09:46 AM
This is no surprise from this body. They are validated and reenergized based on voter apathy at the polls and outcome of the election favoring Republicans. They know they can act with impunity. They gave away the store to the teacher's union in a sweetheart deal that socked it to taxpayers while they (the taxpayers) had zero input. Then, they ramrodded through a Taj Mahal high school renovation, assuring residents there will be no signifiant tax consequence to the spending and borrowing. Now, the cat's out of the bag and they plan on socking it to property owners counting on the fact it will all be forgotten come the next election cycle. Holding the line (no tax increase) last year was just cosmetic for Republican candidates to appear they had our backs. This board allies themselves more with the teachers union than the citizens that elect them. Also, if you read the Courier you'll notice other districts announcing they'll stay below the cap. They face the same pension cost dilemma Bensalem does. The difference is they didn't make things worse by caving in to teachers on salaries and benefits they (and we) can't afford. The Bensalem School Board was most concerned with handing the teachers union a big win to achieve "labor peace" while the taxpayers get a loud and robust "Up Yours!" What can we do? Nothing. The Republican Party in Bensalem is so powerful and the residents so apathetic that your only relief is to sell your house (if you can) and move out of this corrupt town.
Patrick C January 23, 2014 at 09:55 AM
Once again when taxes are raised people suddenly care, not about the children, but about their wallets. They blame teachers not a society that teaches children not to care about knowing anything. We demonize the educators but pat the rich ceos on the back when they earn more then all the teachers in the district do in a year and say good job. Bensalem has closed a school, its development has not brought new children in the district but increased the amount of taxes coming in. The High School was old when I went there in the 90s it needs to be modernized and changed to meet the needs of the students who have to work in a increasingly challenging world. Yet here we are with people telling them they aren't worth a hundred or two hundred more dollars and we wonder why they are failing. I pay school taxes, I have a child in the district, and I went to school in Bensalem. What is disgraceful to me is that there are people who care more about money then the children who are the future of this nation. There are people around the world that are dying for the privilege to pay for their children to be educated.
dmadonna January 23, 2014 at 10:19 AM
What happened to all those stolen funds. This is unbelievable. I have no children, live on a fixed income. Was any of the stolen money recovered. Bensalem makes a ton of money off of PARX Casino, spread it around !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
james bailey January 23, 2014 at 01:57 PM
Patrick C......I too had a child who went to school in Bensalem...........I had him in Catholic School.....my choice but I paid tuition as well as school tax. I believe I paid my fair share and I do not want to pay anymore money to the school district. People are actually ignorant to what HB/SB76 School Tax Elimination would do. It would evenly distribute the taxes so that Homeowners in Bensalem are not responsible for all of it. And I too would like to know what happened to the money that went missing. Why ask the homeowners for more. If the ELECTED officials cannot hear the pleas of the HOMEOWNERS it is up to the HOMEOWNERS to elect and put in office someone who will actually help us.
Patrick C January 23, 2014 at 03:31 PM
James Baily, I am okay with finding a different system to bring the money together for the school district. This is not within the power of the teachers or the district. The money that is missing from the corruption with take years to recoup and is not in the range that is needed to make the changes to the high school. My issue is that the comments that come with this seem to blame the teachers for getting paid or the district for things that I have seen the district and the township pushing against. Think of how much your taxes would be without Parx or closing a school. The complaints about teachers and what they get paid, if you do the math you will find that they are over-educated underpaid babysitters. What I find most disturbing is the belief that you and many others have, 'I paid my fair share'. This is what you are teaching our children, that you only have to give what you want, not what is needed. Imagine if your child told you that they studied their fair share for a test or did their fair share of the chores around the house, would you just say okay and tell them they don't need to do anymore. I imagine you would explain to them that to survive we have to keep doing chores and keep studying. Somebody paid for your education, somebody paid for mine, somebody is paying for our children, and somebody will pay for theirs. This is why we are failing because we have taught our children that they only have to do their fair share.
james bailey January 23, 2014 at 07:32 PM
Patrick C....I am all for the CHILDREN but why not make it a fair process to fund their education? I don't know how old you are but as you get older it gets harder and harder to make ends meet. I simply stated that ALL in BENSALEM should pay for the CHILDREN to go to school NOT JUST THE HOMEOWNERS. It is not like I wouldn't still be paying for the children in the schools but EVERYONE who lives in BENSALEM would be responsible to foot the bill. I thought when I bought my home many years ago I wouldn't have to pay rent to the school district for the rest o my LIFE. There is prime real estate in the form of that school that you say that they closed. This property should be SOLD and use that money towards the new high school renovations and then maybe I could get a much needed roof on my own property.
George Bambooshack January 23, 2014 at 07:50 PM
One thing that needs to be done is the sale of Armstrong which is just sitting there on valuable real estate. Since the new gymnasium at the high school it is totally unused now. And let's not sell it underhandedly to a council member at a discount price, let's sell it legitimately on the market for the most money to a business venture, like a hotel, etc, and put all this money into the school's budget.
james bailey January 23, 2014 at 08:00 PM
George....I am very happy that the people of BENSALEM are not just sitting down and taking this tax hike without speaking out on it.
Connie Youmans January 24, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Just a note, apartment dwellers do pay taxes it is included with their rent. The apartment owners do not get a free ride from taxes. That being said, the older residents of Bensalem deserve a break from the school taxes. My last child was in school in 1984. I have religiously paid my taxes each year and want us to have a quality education system in Bensalem, I feel that is lacking. At 67 I thought I would be able to retire and enjoy some of my later years, but no, I must keep working in order to pay my taxes and meet my other obligatuions. I so so enjoy heat and hot water. We need school tax relief not property tax relief. If Arnstrong sits many more years it will be reduced to a pile of ruble and be worth nothing.
Dawn Marie Saresky January 26, 2014 at 11:39 AM
Vote out the school board, make the apartment complexes pay more, teachers got to pay for their health insurance, get rid of the profit sharing,that has the tax payer covering their losses. Transportation department stole from the taxpayer for 25 years, The Casino was suppose to help, but we are paying for more police.
George Bambooshack January 26, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Well it looks like they may have to also seek voter approval in the May primary election to be able to raise taxes higher than the index. Governor Tom Corbitt passed Act 25 of 2011 which eliminated most of the exceptions of Act 1 and also put limits on the teacher's retirement plans. Looks like all we have to do is vote no in the primary on the tax increase and that should kill it. All our school district does is let our money get stolen and cry about not having enough money every year. They may change the budget like they did last year, but they will try to get away with whatever they can.
Theresa Katalinas (Editor) January 26, 2014 at 01:12 PM
George, Just to clarify, the tax increase is not required to be approved through a voter referendum because the special exception is for debt related to the high school renovation/expansion project and that project is "grandfathered" in with the state.
George Bambooshack January 26, 2014 at 02:00 PM
I'm hoping they don't meet all of the exceptions as I believe that's what it states.
james bailey January 26, 2014 at 03:36 PM
It's time for the people of BENSALEM to say enough is enough. It is a crying shame when your SCHOOL TAX is twice the amount of the property TAX. Time to get HB/SB76 School Tax Elimination passed.
P2YA January 26, 2014 at 05:08 PM
One thing those people are good at on Donallen Drive is identifying the loopholes. What they're not good at is fiscal management, holding the line with the teacher's union, making hard cuts and imposing pay to play for sports. You can rest well assured the district and the board have their i's dotted and their t's crossed so that their 3.2% tax increase is not exposed to a referendum. This is one reason why they rushed through approval of the high school renovation so the debt service would never be put to voters. The real referendum was last November when through either low turnout or blind stupidity we, the taxpayers of Bensalem, voted in the same tax and spend Republican endorsed slate of candidates. These people think you voted them in because you don't mind paying more taxes and they can continue saying yes to Baugh and every other "educator" that sticks his or her hands out to spend YOUR money.
George Bambooshack January 26, 2014 at 06:29 PM
P2YA you are a great writer. :) I agree with you entirely. Looks like we are now up the creek without a paddle. We need some new Democrats to replace the Republican Monopoly.
Sharon Derr January 29, 2014 at 04:22 PM
http://www.bensalemsd.org/cms/lib7/PA01000472/Centricity/Domain/107/2014.15%20Budget%20Dates.BOARDAPPROVED112613.pdf This is a link to the Public meetings held in 2014 for the approval of the budget. It is always open to the public to voice your concerns.

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