Friday, February 9, 2018

New Phoenixville Board Member, Phantom Tax Hike

Photos by Evan Brandt
Meet David Goldberg, the newest member of the Phoenixville Area School Board.

Seven people applied to replace Mike Ellis on the Phoenixville School Board, but after two withdrew, the board chose one from among five remaining applicants.

The school board conducted public interviews with all five -- Troy Johnson Jr., Maureen Ahearn, David Goldberg, Sandra Tucker and Ayisha Sereni -- each individually, according to School Board President Lisa Longo.

The board re-convened and all but Tucker were the subject of a vote, as her nomination did not receive a second.
David Goldberg takes the oath of office as Phoenixville's newest
school board member.

Goldberg, 45, is a Schuylkill Township resident and assistant professor of criminal justice at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Del.

He said concern about his children's homework load brought him to his first board meeting and remains a concern of his.

(When that subject was raised Thursday night, Superintendent Alan Fegley convinced the board to let the staff "have first crack at it," rather than have it discussed in the policy committee. Board member Kevin Pattinson said he did not think setting a specific policy was a good idea as "it puts the board in the classroom.")

Goldberg said his other issues of interest are the discussions of later start times and budget and taxes.

He said a friend pointed the vacancy out to him and he applied. "If you had told me three weeks ago that I was about to be a school board member, I would have laughed at you," he said.

He will service until the expiration of Ellis' term, December of 2019. Goldberg said he has "absolutely no idea" if he will seek a full four-year term at that time.

The school board also adopted a preliminary $94 million budget for the 2018-2019 school year which finance committee chairman Eric Daugherty took great pains to say "will not be the final budget we adopt in June."

Nonetheless, the budget passed with all but Goldberg's vote (he abstained), would raise the millage by 4 percent to 32 mills, using "exceptions" for school construction and special education to exceed the state-imposed tax cap of 2.4 percent.

Even with the $875,000 generated by those exceptions, the preliminary budget has a $3.2 million deficit which would, under current circumstances, have to be made up with reserves.

Longo said the district's successful challenge of the tax exempt status of Tower Health, which has been appealed in Chester County courts, makes is "likely" that at least this year, Phoenixville Hospital will be  paying its tax bill of $950,000.

However, she said, the budget adopted last night is conservative in the sense that does not include that revenue.

The board's last act was to vote unanimously (Goldberg abstained) to adopt a resolution opposing Pennsylvania State Senate Bill 2, which, board member Blake Emmanuel explained, "opens the door" to vouchers and could impact Phoenixville, even though it is not an "under-performing school district."

Here are the Tweets from the meeting.

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