Bud­get will hike taxes by 5.4%

Board re­in­states per capita tax, OKs one-year, $1.2M teacher con­tract

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

BOY­ER­TOWN » With a 6-3 vote Tues­day, the Boy­er­town Area School Board ap­proved a $118 mil­lion fi­nal bud­get that raises prop­erty taxes by 5.4 per­cent.

Board mem­bers Ruth Dierolf, Chris­tine Neiman and Clay Breece voted against the bud­get adop­tion.

With a 7-2 vote, the board also un­der­took a last-minute res­cue of the $14.70 per capita tax, which was sched­uled to dis­ap­pear on July 1.

And a unan­i­mous board vote ap­proved a one-year con­tract with

On­line: For a Twit­ter re­cap of the Boy­er­town School Board meet­ing, visit pottsmerc.com

the district’s teach­ers union that in­cludes $1,500 raises and will add more than $1.2 mil­lion to the new bud­get.

In com­ments be­fore his vote, Breece chided the district for not work­ing harder, putting in more meet­ings, to try to lower the tax in­crease.

In Fe­bru­ary, when the board took its first vote on the bud­get, the tax hike was fore­cast at 5.44 per­cent, and lit­tle has changed since then, he said.

Call­ing pub­lic schools “a gov­ern­ment

“The plan of some school board di­rec­tors is sim­ply to raise taxes.” Clay Breece, Boy­er­town School Board mem­ber

mo­nop­oly,” Breece said “the plan of some school board di­rec­tors is sim­ply to raise taxes.”

“We don’t have any­body here who wants to make tough de­ci­sions. I don’t think most of the peo­ple here would know a tough de­ci­sion if it was star­ing them in the face,” he said. “And they will raise taxes again if we keep elect­ing the same peo­ple.”

Al­though none of the board mem­bers re­sponded to Breece’s com­ments di­rectly, res­i­dent Jon Emeigh did dur­ing the pub­lic com­ment pe­riod.

He said Boy­er­town has fol­lowed a pat­tern of adopt­ing bud­gets with “ill-ad­vised” zero tax hikes that ul­ti­mately have to made up with larger hikes in later years to fill the re­sult­ing rev­enue short­fall.

“This re­lent­less fo­cus on the bot­tom line para­dox­i­cally makes you spend more money,” he said, opin­ing that the rea­son the 33-year-old sta­dium at the high school “is fall­ing down is be­cause of this drive to cut costs and main­te­nance is al­ways an easy thing to cut.”

“If you con­tinue to cheap out

“You don’t help se­niors on fixed in­comes on the backs of our chil­dren, it will de­stroy this com­mu­nity.” Jon Emeigh, Boy­er­town School District res­i­dent

on our kids’ ed­u­ca­tion, you will con­tinue to cost this com­mu­nity money,” Emeigh said. “You don’t help se­niors on fixed in­comes on the backs of our chil­dren, it will de­stroy this com­mu­nity.”

School Board Pres­i­dent Donna Usav­age noted that over the past 10 years, the av­er­age Boy­er­town tax hike has matched the state tax ceil­ing known as the Act 1 In­dex. This is de­spite the fact that in­creased costs for the state re­tire­ment sys­tem and in­creases in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams were not cov­ered by the in­creased rev­enue from the tax hikes al­lowed by the state.

As for the mat­ter of the per capita tax, which is levied on every per­son older than 18 who lives in the district, Dierolf said she has tried to bring up the mat­ter three times pre­vi­ously.

The tax was set to sun­set af­ter July 1 as the re­sult of a res­o­lu­tion passed by the school board in Oc­to­ber 2013.

District So­lic­i­tor Jeff Sul­tanik in­formed the board that once July 1 has passed, the only way to bring back the per capita tax would be to hold a district-wide ref­er­en­dum.

Breece, who joined Usav­age in cast­ing the only two votes to let the tax die, said that is ex­actly what the board should do.

“Let the peo­ple vote on it and this board will get a les­son in civics,” said Breece. “This thing will go down like a Ja­panese Zero into one of those air­craft car­ri­ers dur­ing World War II. As a con­ser­va­tive, I’m not go­ing to vote to raise taxes,” he said.

Dierolf, in a rare ex­am­ple of dis­agree­ment be­tween the two, said “we’re not rais­ing taxes. We’ve been col­lect­ing the per capita tax con­tin­u­ously since 2013.”

Sev­eral board mem­bers, in­clud­ing Jill Den­nin and Brandon Foose, seemed on the fence about keep­ing the tax alive, largely be­cause the cost of col­lect­ing it con­sumes

“We’re not rais­ing taxes. We’ve been col­lect­ing the per capita tax con­tin­u­ously since 2013.” Ruth Dierolf, Boy­er­town School Board mem­ber

roughly 40 per­cent of what it gen­er­ates.

“It’s a nui­sance tax,” said Usav­age.

Board Vice Pres­i­dent Steve Elsier said the district nets about $160,000 from the tax af­ter the cost of col­lect­ing it is ex­tracted.

“It may be pru­dent to keep the per capita tax from go­ing away,” Elsier said, cit­ing loom­ing safety and se­cu­rity im­prove­ments to the schools “and the fact that we don’t have a state bud­get yet.”

On Tues­day, the board voted unan­i­mously to spend $355,649 on the first phase of those se­cu­rity im­prove­ments, with more dis­cus­sion to come.

Breece said he is look­ing for­ward to those dis­cus­sions, when he in­tends to sug­gest that the district make use of vet­er­ans and re­tired and off-duty po­lice of­fi­cers to be armed guards that pa­trol the halls of the district’s school build­ings.

The other sig­nif­i­cant bud­getre­lated vote taken by the board Tues­day night was to unan­i­mously ap­prove a one-year con­tract with the teach­ers union, the Boy­er­town Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.

The agree­ment in­cludes pay raises for teach­ers and will in­crease ex­penses for the district by $1,220,186.

High­lights of the ap­proved con­tract in­clude:

• A $1,500 in­crease to the salary sched­ule for each step and ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment level dur­ing the 2018-2019 school year. The salary in­crease will be ef­fec­tive with the fourth pay pe­riod in the 20182019 school year.

• There will be no step move­ment for the 2018-2019 school year.

• Salary sched­ule move­ment for Boy­er­town Area Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers who have achieved and been ap­proved for ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment would be­come ef­fec­tive with the first pay of the 2018-2019 school year.

• There will be no change in ben­e­fits.

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