When: Ephrata Area School District board meeting, May 3, in person.
What happened: Property owners in the district may face up to a 3.7% tax increase to fund the $76.12 million spending plan in 2021-22, the board announced during a committee meeting in the Ephrata Middle School’s media center. As more data from the state and federal resources becomes available in the next 30 days, the board will determine how much of a tax hike, if any, is necessary.
What this means: The maximum tax levy allowed by the state would be 17.88 mills. That means the owner of a property assessed at $173,718, the district average, would face a $109 increase and a tax obligation of $3,106. Last year the district had no tax increase.
What’s next: During the May 10 regular meeting, board members will vote for the state index’s highest rate for the district of 3.7%. They will adopt the final budget in June. The preliminary budget is used to set the maximum possible tax increase that will be considered for the final budget. Board members emphasized that if they set the increase less than 3.7%, then they can’t legally increase it later.
Project bids: Erin Hoffman, project manager at RLPS Architects in Lancaster, informed board members that bids opened for the project at the high school came in at $32.85 million. She said in December the project was estimated at about $32.5 million to $33 million. Hoffman recommends board approval at the May 10 meeting.
Quotable: “We are right on that budget, which is amazing,” Hoffman said. “I am sure, some of you know from the construction industry, this market is very volatile. We don’t know from day to day what materials are costing or when they are coming in, so we were extremely happy with the numbers that we received today.”
Background: The project has three main components including an addition to Ephrata High School to accommodate expanded music and performing arts spaces. Also, a program called Project Build a Better Future, which teaches students ages 18-21 with special needs how to prepare for life outside the classroom, now housed at the Washington facility, would move to the high school. The headquarters for the student services department, also there, would move to the high school. The project also has a complete HVAC system replacement at the high and middle schools.
Quotable: “The fact we are here on bid day and have bids that, cumulatively, are within the existing budget ... I think we are fortunate,” said Superintendent Brian Troop, noting that some districts are paying up to 20% more than original estimates.