Officials Welcomed Tax Protesters

The Intelligencer Journal’s online version, lancasteronline.com, has continuing coverage of our petition:

During Monday’s meeting, officials welcomed tax protesters pushing for a break on their property tax bills, which are among the highest in Lancaster and Chester counties.

Officials handed out 17 pages of budget information and asked the protesters, whose spokesman was Tim Alexander of Parkesburg, to join with them in urging the state Legislature to reform school funding.

“As a board of directors you have reduced spending by about $4 million since the 2009-10 budget and enhanced revenue by about $400,000,” superintendent Tom Newcome said.

Newcome said paying for pensions, public charter schools and reduced state and federal revenues have challenged school boards. And, he said, other taxpayers also must make up for the preferential funding given to those with agricultural properties in Clean and Green.

“While you’ve been controlling things you have control over, things you don’t have control over have been moving out ahead of you,” Newcome told the school board.

Alexander said Monday he had 101 signatures on an online petition calling on the school board to freeze taxes this year and then reduce property taxes by 10 percent over the next five years.

He also suggested the school board seek some concessions from the district’s teachers union.

“We’ve just reached the point where we can’t bear to pay more,” Alexander said. “There is a perception out there we’re not getting a return on those dollars.”

In reply, school board President Lisa Bowman said there is a balance between the taxpayers and the students.

“People won’t be able to sell homes if we don’t have a good school district,” she said. “Here people know who they (students) are. People know their names, and teachers care. We are making do with less.”

Board members Leon Lapp and Shawna Johnson said they arrived on the school board ready to think “out of the box” and make cuts, only to be stymied by the lack of revenue in the rural district and education regulations.

Lapp said he still supports a freeze for this year.

After board member Bob Hume suggested the tax protesters file a class action suit against the state, board member Sam Ganow shook his head and told Hume he remembered 15 years ago when Hume and his Octorara Taxpayers Association blamed the school board and were “the bane of my life.”

“Our state representatives won’t listen to us and won’t do a thing,” said Hume, who has testified before legislative committees about the need for education funding reform. (Read more…)

This is an accurate representation of the last board meeting. I’m a little disheartened that the news outlet is giving out the information for the public to receive Dr. Newcome’s talking points, but not information on how to find the petition.

That we live in a “good” school district, and people should be willing to pay for it, is the drum Lisa Bowman, School Board President, has been pounding since the beginning of the petition. However, reality is we are paying above-average salaries, and are receiving below-average results.

The primary issue with the Octorara Area School District is not Harrisburg, but their own spending.

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