Dead­line loom­ing to adopt bud­get

The Southern Berks News - - FRONT PAGE - By Denise Larive

With just weeks left to ap­prove a fi­nal 2018-19 bud­get, the Daniel Boone School Board is still un­de­cided on how it will bal­ance a $1.48 mil­lion deficit.

The board had voted 8-1 on May 14 that it would bal­ance the deficit (of $1.66 mil­lion) with the max­i­mum tax in­crease of 3.2 per­cent that is al­lowed by the state’s Act 1 in­dex.

That would in­crease the mill­age rate from 30.2 mills to 31.1664 mills, and in­crease tax bills by $96 for every $100,000 of as­sessed prop­erty value.

“If some­one makes a mo­tion to in­crease to the in­dex, I vote no,” said board Pres­i­dent David Rathgeb, “but I would do a .6 mill in­crease.”

“I’m go­ing to vote no [to a max­i­mum mill­age in­crease] be­cause pre­vi­ous boards put us in this po­si­tion,” said mem­ber

Aaron Durso.

Al­ter­na­tively, the board is con­sid­er­ing us­ing $1.48 mil­lion of its $5 mil­lion fund bal­ance (district sav­ings), to elim­i­nate the deficit.

“What about the (pro­jected) neg­a­tive fund bal­ance the next two years?” asked a board mem­ber.

“I was never a fan of zero per­cent tax in­creases, but not also of in­creases to the in­dex,” said Rathgeb, adding, “maybe do .6 mills every year?”

The board has un­til June 30 to ap­prove a fi­nal bud­get.

Mem­ber Michael Wolfe re­peated his state­ment of May 14 that the district’s fu­ture should be de­ter­mined by a voter ref­er­en­dum, par­tic­u­larly if the Daniel Boone Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion re­quests higher teacher salaries.

The board and the teach­ers union are ne­go­ti­at­ing a new teacher con­tract.

Teacher salaries have re­mained flat for a num­ber of years.

“At some point we won’t be able to tax our­selves out of the hole and we’ll need to go to ref­er­en­dum to pay for ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion,” said Wolfe.

The district’s pro­jected rev­enue for 2018-19 has de­creased by $343,000.

District ex­penses have been re­duced to $58,426,261 with a cost re­duc­tion in the High School’s sub­sti­tute teacher ser­vice.

The clo­sure this month of the Birdsboro El­e­men­tary Cen­ter as a district build­ing has re­duced ex­penses by $461,000.

Ren­o­va­tions re­quired to one day re­open the build­ing are es­ti­mated at $1.9 mil­lion.

A $5 mil­lion bond to fi­nance that project (and other cap­i­tal projects) would in­cur ad­di­tional debt ser­vice pay­ments be­gin­ning in July 2019.

“I can­not fathom why a bond is­sue if there is no plan to re­open that build­ing,” said mem­ber Jeffrey Scott.

“When I came on to the board, all I heard was the [ren­o­va­tion] money spent on this build­ing [for­mer Amity Pri­mary Cen­ter], and now we’re do­ing the same thing.”

Wolfe pro­posed that the board add the $300,000 ear­marked for new debt ser­vice pay­ments to the $500,000 ear­marked for cap­i­tal projects.

Board con­sen­sus was to sta­bi­lize BEC and main­tain it, but not in­vest ad­di­tional money at this time.

“It’s good to sta­bi­lize BEC,” said mem­ber Ju­lia Olaf­son, adding, “That is a good mid­dle path. We would hear it from [res­i­dents] if we let an as­set — that we’re not pay­ing on — to de­te­ri­o­rate.”

The board has asked James R. Thomp­son, pres­i­dent of Thomp­son As­so­ciates Ar­chi­tects and Plan­ners, Harrisburg, to present at the board’s June 11 meet­ing a phased BEC ren­o­va­tion plan.

Su­per­in­ten­dent James P. Harris af­firmed that the board would be­gin dis­cussing in Au­gust stag­gered school start­ing times for the 2019-20 school year.

The fo­cus of stag­gered start­ing times is to re­duce trans­porta­tion costs.

Harris said the district’s third an­nual Blazer Days, June 27 - 30, is the main fundraiser for district sports, clubs, and ac­tiv­i­ties.

“This is their big fundraiser for uni­forms, in­stead of sell­ing candy bars,” said Harris.

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