Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Boyertown Takes $1M Step Toward New Stadium

Boyertown School officials hope to have a new set of grandstands, replacing these, ready to go for the first football game of the 2019 season in August.

The Boyertown School Board voted Tuesday night to spend more than $1 million for new grandstands at the new stadium being built at the high school.

Although the financing for the $5 million project has not yet been decided upon, the vote occurred to take advantage of an offer to skim $100,000 off the price of the new stands if the order was placed before Dec. 1.

The board decided in June to move ahead with demolishing the old stadium, which developed structural problems due to water infiltration.

The package the board approved Tuesday is with Stadium Solutions and includes the home side grandstands, the home side press box and a new handicap platform for the visitor side.

The price is $1,167,200 and there would be a three-year warranty on the grandstand and it's installation, along with a one-year warranty on the press box.

The vote was not unanimous.

Board member Ruth Dierolf, who said she likes the package and agrees it is the right one for Boyertown, said she nevertheless had to vote against it because she has taken the position she will not vote on anything until she knows the impact on the budget.

Board member Clay Breece was more expansive in his opposition, tying it to what he said is the board's spendthrift approach to budgeting.

"I'm not voting for new stadium. I think we need to be fixing the stadium we've got," said Breece.

"There are people on this board who have never met a spending idea they don't like," he said. "We should be fixing the stadium we've got for $2.5 million, not spending $5 million for a new one."

Fixing the current stadium would be pennywise and pound foolish, said board member Brandon Foose, saying it could develop the same problems in a few years.

"If we repair stadium, and a couple years later, we have to replace it anyway, that would be a huge waste of money," Foose said.

The current plan is for the new stadium to be ready for the first football game in August of 2019.

Budget Discussion

The board also undertook a fairly lengthy budget discussion, although the discussion focused more on process than the details of the budget, which is still months away.

In January, the board can either vote to stay within the state tax cap, called the index, or go through the process of  building a preliminary which has to be adopted in February, according to Chief Financial Officer Becky Clouser.

This slide shows that if the school board had raised taxes each 
year by the state index, it's millage would be .73 mills higher.
Doing so would allow the district to apply for, as it has in past years, for "exceptions" to the tax cap without having to go to voters. This year, Boyertown's index would limit a tax hike to a maximum of 2.8 percent.

In addition to hiring a new superintendent this year, the district has also had to replace almost the entire business office, that combined with the vote to rescind the per capita tax elimination and "inconsistent expenditure reporting," has slowed progress on holding budget meetings.

Dierolf and board member Christine Neiman complained that work on the budget was supposed to start earlier. "We used to have the different school building leaders come in an make their pitch for what they wanted in the coming year. How are we supposed to vote on a budget if we don't have all the pieces?" asked Dierolf.

Board Vice President and Finance Committee Chairman Steve Elsier said work on the budget has occurred in the finance committee more than in previous years.

Superintendent Dana Bedden, who is undergoing his first budget with the board since being hired in July, said he was disturbed by Dierolf's suggestion.

"I have never, in 14 years as a superintendent, had departments or buildings lobby the board. That sounds like a 'Shark Tank' scenario and pits one department against the other. That's scary to me," Bedden said.

Instead, those pitches should be made to the administration and the administration should bring a recommendation to the board, he said.

Clouser said the deficit in the current budget has already been reduced to $1.3 million, which is less than previous years.

Bedden said he has never presided over a school district that "operated in the red" and he does not intend to start now.

His team has already saved $125,000 on copier leases and workers compensation insurance.

In fact the new copier lease will save $625,000 over the course of the five-year contract, which Elsier said "is real money."

Annual savings of more than $30,000 will also be realized as the result of a change over to a new student information system that the board approved Tuesday night.

The district needs to take a different approach to budgeting to "right the ship" Bedden said. "Whatever we've done in the past isn't working."

There are many factors that contribute to rising costs. "We feed our children milk every day and the price of milk will go up," he said, also agreeing with Elsier that the PSERS retirement costs dictated by the state-wide pension system is a huge factor.

"When I saw the figures for this year I called and checked because I didn't think that could be right," said Bedden. Another factor will be negotiations for a new teacher contract, he said.

"Like I said when you interviewed me, you can't tax your way out of this, but similarly, you can't cut your way out of it," Bedden said. "I hope we're open to doing this a different way, so we can be more efficient."

And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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