The Palisades School District board has authorized a tax increase of 0.87% for the 2021-2022 school year, which translates to a median annual household increase of $30.90.
The action was taken by unanimous vote at the June 2 public dial-in school board meeting. During the nine-month budget process, the board had previously authorized as much as the maximum 3% allowed by the state for this year without a public referendum, but was able to work it down to the 0.87%.
The level of increase was typical for Palisades for the last few years, as in years prior when there was no increase.
The board has followed a theme of routine small increases to avoid sudden large increases, with a total of only a 5.1% increase since the 2011-2012 school year.
Costs for support of pensions and private-sector charter school tuition have increased at far higher rates, and in very significant volume, during the same period.
An innovative special fund that developed many years ago has enabled the board to cope effectively with dramatically increased pension costs, while many other school districts were forced to raise taxes significantly. Pressure from sharply increased costs each year from tuition payments for private-sector charter school enrollments has been cited by officials as the key driver for the most recent tax increases.
Officials have continued their pleas for reform of the charter school funding formula, while the state legislature has taken no action.
Also at the June 2 meeting, the board authorized the appointment of Dr. Michael Donnelly to serve as principal at Tinicum Elementary School, where Principal Janet Link is retiring this year after 38 years of service to the district. Donnelly, who had been serving as the district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, will now also serve as assistant to the superintendent for educational services.
The Donnelly move drew strong public comment condemnation from nine resident attendees, who, while emphasizing support for Donnelly’s credentials and capabilities, criticized what they saw as replacing the revered Link with a less than full-time principal.
But the 7-2 approval vote signaled strong board confidence in the move, with Donnelly understood to be a “full-time principal, there when the students were there,” and his other job being as an assistant to the superintendent.
In addition, the board finalized the 5-year renewal contract for Superintendent Bridget O’Connell, who will now enter her 11th year in the job, and approved the new position of board certified behavioral analyst, who is to “conduct functional behavioral assessments, and/or develop educationally appropriate behavioral intervention plans to assist students in being successful in their educational program.”