School Board Meeting: 2018/19 Budget includes 3.09% Tax Increase
June 7, 2018
The School Board met on Thursday, June 7th. School Board members include: Ms Tracy Lisi (Chair), Mr John Auerbach, Mr Charles Beatty, Mr Jeff Billig, Mr Rick Dumont, Mr Herman Engel, Ms Lynn Weber, Mr Bill Wood, and Ms Bonnie Wolff. All were present at the meeting except Mr Beatty.
The full meeting agenda is available here:
The profile of the Graduation Class of 2018 was presented to the board:
437 Graduates with 89% of the graduates pursuing post-graduate education
The most popular in-state school is Delaware County Community College followed by Penn State and West Chester
The most popular out-of-state schools are University of Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia Tech
The students’ areas of interest include STEM (38%) and Health Sciences (22%)
Finance - Covered in a previous update. See budget resolution below.
Legislative - A bill that requires each district to develop and administer a civics test will be signed by Gov. Wolf.
The school board voted on a budget resolution to increase taxes by 3.09% for the 2018/19 school year. Ms Weber made the recommendation to keep the tax rate increase to 2.5 % instead of raising it to 3.09%. She made this recommendation at the last two Finance Committee Meetings but the other two members of the Finance Committee would not consider it, so she made the recommendation to the full Board. She felt that this was the last year that a moderate tax increase was possible before the Administration and the majority of the School Board raised taxes to the maximum allowable rate for the next 5 to 7 years.
Mr Wood and Ms Wolff said that the increase was needed to cover the increases in PSERS funding (teacher retirement) mandated by the state and other unknowns such as the potential loss of revenue from the Tower Hill request for not-for-profit status for its recent purchase of Jennersville hospital. Ms Weber responded that the reserve fund set up to soften the PSERS mandates should be used. If not now, then when? Also if the Administration felt that it must raise taxes to the maximum now before the debt for the facilities expansions become due, how is the Board going to handle the budget when PSERS and other costs go higher and the new debt must be paid off on top of the existing expenditures. There is a concern that AGSD cannot really afford a $200 million facilities project. Mr Wood then declared that once again, a recommendation is made to lower taxes without proposing how. Mr Auerbach had suggested that the Administration propose a zero base budget that included no tax increases as a starting point with additional programs be evaluated to determine the value to students. This approach would challenge the school board to prioritize programs that supported the core responsibility of educating students while removing those programs that don’t. This approach was not supported by the Administration or some of the other school board members.
The vote for the resolution to approve the school budget for 2018/19 with the 3.09% tax increase passed 5-3:
Billig, Engel, Lisi, Wolff, Wood – yes
Auerbach, Dumont, Weber – no
The Homestead and Farmstead Exclusion passed 8-0.
The Capital Projects Budget is 2.53 million. It will be interesting to see how much of this budget is actually spent in 2018-19 school year. Less than half of the budget was spent in 2017-18 school year despite issues with the high school facilities.
There was a warning that Solicitor’s rates have not increased in 4 years and we should expect an increase in next year’s budget.
*Call to Action
It is important that your position on increasing taxes and the construction cost of building new school facilities is heard. It is critical that community members attend upcoming school board meetings and/or send letters via e-mail to the school board and administration to make their position known. The District Calendar can be found here. Watch the district calendar for updates. Information about the board, including E-mail addresses, can be found here.
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