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Allentown officials consider appeal in school tax issue

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By Mark Rosman
Staff Writer

ALLENTOWN – The initial news regarding Allentown’s share of the 2017-18 tax levy that will support the Upper Freehold Regional School District does not appear to be favorable, according to municipal officials.

According to information discussed during the Oct. 11 meeting of the Borough Council, Allentown’s property owners may pay a larger share of the school district’s tax levy in 2017-18 than they are paying in 2016-17.

And the borough’s 2016-17 share of the tax levy (14.26 percent) was larger than the share of the tax levy Allentown’s property owners paid to support the operation of the school district in 2015-16 (13.04 percent).

According to information provided by the state to Allentown, the borough’s apportionment rate will rise from 14.26 percent of the tax levy in 2016-17 to 14.31 percent of the tax levy in 2017-18.

Council President Wil Borkowski said given the fact that the school district tax levy generally increases each year, the larger share that is owed by Allentown property owners will translate into a higher tax for those property owners.

Mayor Greg Westfall said the apportionment rate “is going in the wrong direction.”

Council members agreed they want to take the steps necessary to appeal the 2017-18 apportionment rate.

When the issue came up in regard to the 2016-17 apportionment rate, borough officials retained a law firm in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the increase from 2015-16, but according to representatives of the law firm the time limit for an appeal had expired.

The increase in the apportionment percentage from 2015-16 to 2016-17 translated to an increase of about $530 in a property owner’s school taxes (about $132 per quarter) from August 2016 through July 2017.

Borough officials have since said they will do what is necessary in the permitted time – they have until mid-November – to address the issue for 2017-18.

Councilwoman Madeline Gavin said Allentown officials will meet with representatives of the regional school district to gather more information about the school district’s 2017-18 budget.

Allentown and Upper Freehold Township comprise the school district and share the costs of operating the Newell Elementary School, the Stone Bridge Middle School and Allentown High School.

The Upper Freehold Regional School District Board of Education adopted a $41.07 million budget for the 2016-17 school year. The budget is supported by the collection of $25.19 million in taxes from residential and commercial property owners in Upper Freehold Township ($21.6 million) and Allentown ($3.59 million).

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