North Hills taking steps to avoid hiking taxes for 7th consecutive year - North Journal

North Hills taking steps to avoid hiking taxes for 7th consecutive year

Friday, May 1, 2020 | 9:00 AM

The North Hills School Board has approved a preliminary budget for the 2020-21 school year that holds the line on property taxes, maintains all programs and curriculum, and keeps staffing at its current level.

“Due to the extreme financial difficulties faced by many at this time because of covid-19, we are supporting a budget without a tax increase,” board President Allison Mathis said during the April 30 virtual school board meeting.

“The reality is we are forced to make these decisions with limited information about what next year looks like,” she said. “However, we are committed to doing the best we can for the entire North Hills community, for our schools and for the residents of West View and Ross Township.”

The board is expected to vote on whether to adopt the budget at its June 11 meeting. By law, districts must submit a balanced budget to the state by June 30.

If the budget is approved as presented, it will end a six-year run of property-tax increases.

At the current rate of 18.65 mills, property owners pay $18.65 for every $1,000 of their home’s assessed value. The median value of homes in the district is $135,900.

To balance next year’s $83.7 million spending plan without hiking taxes or cutting programs and staff, district officials plan to implement several cost-saving measures including:

• A “pause” in filling job vacancies or creating new positions.

• A temporary, one-year suspension of the school board’s class-size policy to allow two additional students in some kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

• Leaving one assistant elementary principal position unfilled.

• A delay in the planned hiring of an additional school social worker or psychologist.

• Replacing only one of the two school nurses scheduled to retire this year.

The state-mandated school closure has prompted officials to better prepare students to learn from home in the future.

Plans call for replacing its entire fleet of iPads, which will be issued to all students to ensure students have access to a device if the district must use some form of virtual instruction next year. In the past, iPads were only given to students in grades 5 through 11.

“This does not mean we know we are going to have to have virtual learning next year,” Mathis said. “But it would be irresponsible to not plan for that possibility. “We do not know what next year is going to look like, but we need to be prepared to be adaptive and responsive.”