After a judge ruled last month that Lower Merion must revoke its 4.4-percent tax hike for the 2016-17 school year, the school district decided to fight back.

At a school board meeting Monday, the board approved the appointment of an attorney with Drinker Biddle for $425 per hour to oversee the district's appeal against Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Smyth's ruling.

But tensions are high at this Main Line school district, which recently has been shown to have had budget surpluses at the end of each year, despite its projected deficits. 

"Fuzzy math," Smyth called it last month, when he ordered the tax revocation.

But the district has defended the hike, saying that "unprecedented growth" in enrollment over the past few years has created a need for the surplus, which will contribute to pensions and new buildings. District members have said there has been a 40-percent enrollment increase over the last two decades.

But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the district has continued to predict large budget deficits year after year, while raking in cash by the summer:

  • In 2009-10, the district predicted a $4.7 million deficit, but saw a $9.5 million surplus at the end of the year.
  • In 2011-12, it foresaw a $5.1 million deficit, but ended with a $15.5 million surplus.

Smyth said the district's anticipated $9.3 million deficit for 2016-17 would require less than a 2.4 percent tax increase.

According to the township business manager Victor Orlando, the district has raised taxes by more than 53 percent since 2006. In 2009 and 2010, it also built two new high school buildings, a project totaling $200 million.