Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Boyertown Stadium, Tax Hike, Superintendent News

Photo by Evan Brandt
SONGBIRDS: Boyertown School Board member Brandon Foose, right, stands with high school students Abby Arnold, Taylor Kuszyk and Sally Fetterman after being recognized by the school board for their performance in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Region V Chorus Festival.
Let's not mince words.

There are three major news stories to come out of last night's Boyertown School Board meeting, but let's cue up to the one everyone really cares about -- the stadium.

Those of you interested in your tax bill and who will lead the district in coming years, will just have to wait and skip down a bit.

The Stadium

Last night the school board voted unanimously for the option most favored by parents of student athletes -- to conduct the fall sports season in the high school's Memorial Stadium using temporary stands and temporary sheds, rather than rent outside facilities or hold them "at a neutral location."

The cost of that decision to taxpayers is $112,233.

The district will buy the sheds and some mobile bleachers to be given other uses once the stadium is repaired.

Some bleachers will be rented and set up on the track on the home side and Facilities Director William Gasper said the company that installed the track said the district's plan for a tarp, then plywood, then 2 X 6 board to distribute the weight of the temporary bleachers and the people sitting on them, should be enough to protect the track.

Parent Elyse Watts thanked the board for the decision, which will allow seniors in fall sports to play in the stadium they have known growing up as the home for Boyertown athletics.

She also noted that the timeline as it stands now looks like it could come awfully close to affecting the fall 2019 season and urged the board to move forward with all deliberate speed and efficiency.

Toward's that end, the school board's facilities committee will conduct a special meeting on Monday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria devoted entirely to one subject -- the stadium.

The public is encouraged to attend as the format will allow a break-out session that allows the public to speak directly to board members on a less formal face-to-face basis, said Interim Superintendent David Krem.

A New Superintendent?

Not much to report on this one.

After the leading candidate for the job, Juniata County School District Superintendent Keith Yarger, backed out of the job, the school board has gone "back to the drawing board," said Board President Donna Usavage.

She said since that happened, the board met at least four times in closed-door executive session to discuss the continued superintendent search.

Despite the fact that interim schools superintendent David Krem's term expires in June, the board intends to press forward and decide on a replacement for Richard Faidley, who left last year for a job in Wilson School District, before school starts up again in the fall.

"The board will do everything within our power to get that done," she said.

A Tax Hike Cometh

With the expected 6-3 vote, the school board adopted a preliminary final budget last night that calls for spending more than $119 million and would raise taxes by 5.4 percent.

The millage would increase by 1.35 mills under the proposed budget, leading to a tax rate in both the Montgomery and Berks county portions of the district of 25.37 mills.

For a home assessed at $100,000, that represents an increase of $136, which school board member Jill Dennin called "as pretty good deal" for a home with three children on which the district will spend thousands of dollars each year.

She and board member Brandon Foose both noted that the Boyertown district has see-sawed between low tax hikes and higher ones to then make up the difference.

"You can't have it all, a nice stadium, nice fields, nice music programs and have zero tax hikes," said Dennin. "You can have less staff, larger classrooms, or raise taxes to the inflation rate."

But board members Clay Breece, Ruth Dierolf and Christine Neiman, who represented the three votes against adopting the budget, said not enough had been done to cut costs, and said many residents in the district could not afford the increase.

Saying he thought the district has "squandered money," and that the proposed hike represents the largest single increase since 2002, Breece said if the board continues to raise taxes at that rate, "in five years, it will add $680" for the same resident with a home assessed at $100,000. "It really is a matter of math," he said.

Here are a few more comments he offered:

"I know there are constituents who can't afford this," said Neiman.

Board member Steve Elisier, who chairs the finance committee, said the district saved $208,000 by re-financing some bonds, and that there were also significant savings earned through retirements and lower health insurance costs.

The final budget will be adopted and June, and can be reduced between now and then, but not increased.

Also, while we're talking about money, the board voted unanimously to spend up to $250,000 on five new trucks for the district. The average age of a district truck is 17 years.

And now, without further ado, are the many misspelled Tweets from the meeting.

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