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  • Bonnie Savage

Relationship with Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech in Question Over Funding

During this week’s Saucon Valley School Board meeting (which can be viewed here), discussion around the future of the relationship between Saucon Valley School District (SVSD) and Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School (BAVTS) occurred along with the passing of a resolution authorizing Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty to negotiate on behalf of the district.


Vivian Demko, candidate for Saucon Valley School Board, was the only meeting attendee to speak on agenda items, stating, “I want to speak on Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech.” “I sincerely hope your resolution is to only negotiate with Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech and no other entities.”

The resolution, which can be seen in its entirety here, outlines that the Board of School Directors of the District hereby resolves as follows:

  1. The Superintendent of the District is hereby authorized to review and engage with BAVTS to discuss and address the concerns as outlined in this authorizing resolution and is further authorized to negotiate on the District’s behalf a resolution to these issues subject to final review and approval of the Board of Directors.

  2. Notwithstanding the issues raised herein, the Board of Directors is committed to providing the students of the District with an excellent vocational-technical education, and in compliance with the requirements of law.

  3. The Superintendent shall update the Board and the community on the status of these discussions on an ongoing basis and provide any proposals as presented by representatives of BAVTS.

Board President Susan Baxter opened Board discussion by introducing the resolution. “We have a resolution attached surrounding the vocational education in the district and authorizing the superintendent to discuss and negotiate the district’s relationship with Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech moving forward.”

Director Bryan Eichfeld, who serves on the District’s BAVTS (along with Director Cedric Dettmar) was first to speak, stating, “Being on the Vo-Tech board, I’m very happy with how they’ve done things in the past. But this situation requires some ‘looking at’, because we need to base what we’re paying for this capital improvement based on student volume, per capita, not based on our tax base.”

The current funding formula looks at the total tax base, or assessed values for all homes within the district, and charges a % of that. Eichfeld went on to say that this funding arrangement was “unfair because we will not see as much growth in our student population as Northampton or Bethlehem have, so it would be unfair for us to pay, based on the current formula. And that’s what we’re asking, that they change the formula.”

President Baxter added that the citizens of Saucon Valley deserve fair funding, stating that, “If you go the IU [Intermediate Unit] or look at NCC [Northampton Community College], their units are all based on per capita and it just makes logical sense for us to also have our expenses based on per capita, rather than our property tax value. In the long run we’re just looking out for the citizens for Saucon Valley so that we don’t have to pay an excessive amount.”

Vice President Dr. Shamim Pakzad also defended the resolution, stating that, “for 50 years, Saucon Valley taxpayers have paid more than they have used this facility. It’s a great addition to our educational offering and programs.”

Dr. Pakzad went on to describe the relationship between Saucon Valley and BAVTS as one in which Saucon Valley is the junior part of the partnership. The bigger partners have ‘taken us to lunch.’ He describes it as, “They pick the restaurant. They pick the plate that we must get. But we can’t eat it. They eat it and we must pay the bill. And this has gone on time after time after time…year after year…decade after decade.”

“If someone doesn’t recognize that… they really need to educate themselves before going out there and talking about this as if this is about the education of the kids. This is a time that this community has to really come together and [have a] unified position which is in the best interest of the taxpayers and the kids.”

The proposed resolution was approved unanimously allowing Superintendent Vlasaty to begin negotiating on behalf of the District.


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