Board passes budget with 5.27 percent tax hike
2018-19 budget set at $176 million
CALN » At the end of a monthslong budget approval process, which included several town hall meetings and public feedback from community members, the Coatesville Area School Board voted to approve the district’s 2018-19 budget at a special school board meeting Thursday evening.
In a 5-3 vote, the school board adopted the final version of the new budget, set at about $176 million, with a property tax increase of 5.27 percent, or 1.84 mills. Board members Robert Marshall, Tom Siedenbuehl and Brandon Rhone voted against adopting the budget. Board member Bashera Grove was absent from the meeting.
The district’s preliminary budget, which had included an 8.4 percent tax increase, was approved by the school board in April. Since that time, board members looked for ways to cut costs in the district’s budget, and met with state lawmakers to seek emergency funding.
At the school board’s regular meeting on Tuesday evening, board President Dean Snyder informed attendees that the district would be receiving approximately $1 million in state funding under Pennsylvania’s 2018-19 budget, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on June 22.
Snyder thanked the state lawmakers who represent the Coatesville area for their efforts to help obtain additional funding for the district.
Several board members spoke about the extensive process of examining the district’s finances, and the challenge of trying to balance maintaining a good education for students with the responsibility to taxpayers in the district.
Snyder said the district has made significant improvements in regards to increased enrollment in AP classes and higher test scores across the district, but the district still has a ways to go to continue improving.
He said the issue of charter school tuition has been a serious problem for the district, but all the blame can’t be placed on the current funding process, and the board must look at why students are leaving the district, and address that problem.
“I’m not happy about the 5.27 percent tax increase, but I think we’ve reached the best budget we can,” he said.
CASD Superintendent Cathy Taschner said that efforts to reduce costs in the budget would result in programs being cut.
“While these cuts have been made, they are programmatic, they impact
almost every area of the school district, and we’re not cutting fat at this point, we’re cutting programs,” she said. “In some scope or some measure, there is going to be a loss in any area we choose to cut.”
Board Vice President Ann Wuertz echoed Taschner’s comments.
“We’re not trimming fat, we’re cutting substance,” she said. “I’m concerned about the workload of our staff, considering how thin we are.”
“This is a very, very difficult place we find ourselves as a school district,” Marshall said.
He encouraged district residents to vote and make their voices heard if they feel that board members are not making the right decisions.
“If there are people sitting on this board, including myself, that you don’t feel is doing what’s right, or putting forth the effort, you’ve got to remove us,” Marshall said. “Because I can tell you we’re working hard, and trying to make the right decisions. But if the public feels that that’s not the case, you have an avenue, so please use it.”
The district has cited non-discretionary expenses, including special education placements, charter school tuition and pension costs, as major driving factors necessitating a significant tax increase.