Just 10 months after passing a $8.3 million property tax hike, North Penn School District board members may pass another one.

District Chief Financial Officer Steve Skrocki recommended last week that the board pass a 4.49 percent tax increase as part of its proposed $322 million budget. Property owners would pay an extra $197 in taxes on average.

He said it’s needed because the district’s first budget draft contained a $9.3 million deficit.

“That’s actually pretty low compared to our previous years,” Skrocki told board members during a budget meeting. He said the district once had a $15 million deficit.

Expenses shot up $9.9 million over the past fiscal year, including a $6.7 million jump in salaries and benefits, mostly due to the new teachers’ contract.

“These include a number of new positions not quite finalized with [the] personnel committee,” said Skrocki. Once those positions are finalized, Skrocki said that could “add or subtract to the budget.” Salaries and benefits average between 75 to 80 percent of North Penn’s budget.



Transportation costs rose $590,000. North Penn agreed to a two-year contract extension with First Student, Inc. for school transportation services earlier this year. It’s an increase of 15 percent compared to the district’s previous contract with First Student. Included in the new deal was an extra $100,000 to $120,000 to cover the wages for First Student drivers to make sure that buses receive fuel. Routes will cost $417.20 per bus per day next year.

Another budget driver involved the planned $2 million transfer of cash from the general fund to the high school project. Voters rejected a referendum in January that would have raised taxes to help fund the $403 million expansion and renovation of the high school.

North Penn’s budget proposal included $28 million for capital projects.

Charter school tuition rose $460,000, mostly due to cyber schools, while the district will kick in an extra $397,978 for the North Monto Technical Career Center.

Despite the proposal to add $197 to every property tax bill, Skrocki said North Penn was the fifth lowest taxed district in the county and 17 percent below the countywide average. “North Penn is a great place to be. It’s a high achieving school district, high academic performance, and very low taxes.”

Skrocki defended the call to raise property taxes instead of spending cuts. He said property taxes fund schools.

“Some people may say, ‘Well, everything’s too high,’” Skrocki said. “Okay, I get it. No one likes real estate taxes.”

The actual tax hike number will be decided next month when the budget is finalized.

North Penn budget documents factor in a four percent special education increase from the Pennsylvania government. Other districts do not assume that the state government will kick in anything, a practice that Skrocki dismissed because he doesn’t find it reasonable.

“I feel that the numbers that have been put forth in the proposed budget by the governor are realistic,” he said. “They might end up being a little higher…they might end up being a little lower.”

The board is scheduled to vote on the budget on June 20.

A community member told the board that Skrocki was right but questioned whether the district was prioritizing spending correctly.

“This is the job of the school board to make sure the school isn’t going…beyond their mission of education,” said Jason Lanier of Lansdale. He wondered if the district focused too much on the “social-emotional learning and equity” of students. Lanier said that focus wasn’t working because students appeared to have more social problems. He used the arrest of a Pennbrook Middle School student, who identifies as transgender, in connection with an assault on a 12-year-old girl.

Parents and students protested outside the North Penn Administration Building over the handling of that case last week.