I want to start by staying, we are making an impact, and I believe those who came to the meeting can attest to that being fact. There are board members who seem to understand and agree, and there are board members who do not, but they all seem to be taking notice to our effort. It is more important than ever that everyone keep sharing the petition with friends, family, and neighbors. It is also of paramount importance more people show up to these board meetings. Your signatures have got their attention, but it will be your appearance at school board meetings that will cause real action.
It Is Also A Spending Problem
At the open of the school board meeting Dr. Newcome, School Superintendent, spoke about our budget and tax situation. His words momentarily inspired me into believing there was room for compromise. He stated that this issue is not only a revenue issue, but also one of spending. About two-thirds of the way thru the meeting, after I spoke mentioning how much I appreciated the acknowledgment, and with a whisper in his ear from School Board President Lisa Bowman, Dr. Newcome did a little backpedaling. I have spoke with many people who believe Dr. Newcome dictates to the board… that was not my impression after this meeting.
Disputing Salary Numbers
Lisa Bowman, School Board President, disputed the numbers I put forth in my presentation about teacher salaries. My statistics came from PayScale, a company that regularly provides data and insights around salary and career topics for various publications including Time, CNBC, U.S.News, and Forbes. She stated that according to the Pennsylvanian Department of Labor website, the average teacher salary in Pennsylvania is $60,674 (2011 were the latest numbers available).
I have taken the time to independently verify that number, and using Occupation Profiles on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry website (https://paworkstats.geosolinc.com/) I found the following information:
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education – $53,020
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education – $53,370
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education – $57,930
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education – $56,660
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Middle School – $58,940
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Secondary School – $60,690
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education – $36,490
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education – $37,570
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education – $42,930
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education – $39,850
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Middle School – $47,880
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Secondary School – $46,510
I could not verify Lisa Bowman’s data, but the above data shows we are paying a hefty premium. While our teachers will be starting at $49,191, the majority of teachers across Pennsylvania are starting significantly less, even Career/Technical Education Teachers. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry provides a lot of information on their Occupation Profiles. When we compare Octorara’s average salary of $66,523 (2011-12), the information would suggest that kind of pay should be reserved for the top 1/3 most experienced teachers, not average.
High Taxes, What A Bargain
School Board Member Nelson Stoltzfus wanted to stress his belief, while the Octorara Area School District does pay the highest millage rate in Chester County, households are still not paying more in actual dollars. He believes, because home values are lower, even with the higher millage rate, we actually pay less. I will save analyzing whether that statement is true or not in another article. However, what needs to be addressed here is Mr. Stoltzfus is only seeing one side of this issue.
The Octorara Area School District has lower property values, but it also has significantly lower incomes. Because of the lower incomes, these taxes take a larger percentage of incomes and have greater impact. Within the Borough of Parkesburg, the Income per Capita is $26,199 verses $41,251 across Chester County. The Income per Capita across Pennsylvania is $27,049. Therefore, when we compare our community, and what our school district should be spending, we can’t use greater Chester County as our comparison. We just don’t measure up.
Take it a step further, and we see the Median Est. Home Value in Parkesburg is $175,550, Chester County’s Median Est. Home Value is $294,150, and Pennsylvania’s Median Est. Home Value is $151,780. We can say living here is a bargain if you are making a Chester County income, but it has a higher cost of living in reality for the majority. There are people on the board that just can’t wrap their minds around that fact.
We Need You At The Meetings
Board members on both sides of this issue made the statement, we need more people in the seats at school board meetings. Those who were sympathetic want your ideas, and your help solving the problem. The other side dismissed our petition as meaningless because, in their opinion, too few are motivated to show up. They believe you will eat the next round of taxes with a faint whimper, and eventually just go away.
The reason our taxes are so high is because too few of us have been willing to stand up and say, “No more!!” We create our own change. If you don’t want to see another tax increase, we need to fill the seats at school board meetings.
*The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Average numbers can be skewed by a few very high or very low earners.