The Final Countdown

final-countdownAt the Octorara Board meeting, from April 15th, there were no additional changes to the budget to report from the previous work session meeting. The current proposed millage for Chester County is 36.80 which is an increase of .14 mills or .382%. The current proposed millage for Lancaster County is 27.79 which is an increase of .30 mills or 1.091%.

Dr Newcome, as requested by the board at the previous meeting, presented his list of “Budget Reduction Considerations” reorganized by, what he considered, priority. An additional $115,000 in spending cuts would allow a zero increase in Chester County.

Dr Newcome recommended the following four:

  1. $100,000 savings from bus route adjustments (does not include the double bus plan)
  2. $10,000 by cutting Kindergarten Summer Outreach
  3. $5,000 from the “savings” fund
  4. $30,000 from cutting building budgets by 5%

The total savings in cuts appears to be $145,000. However, the savings from bus route adjustments, as Dr Newcome explained, may fall short. He added the 5% additional cuts to budging budgets as a safeguard. The building budgets have a technical cut of 10% already. This was by keeping the year-over-year budget numbers flat. The 5% cut will be an actual cut in spending.

Dr Newcome also explained that the Kindergarten Summer Outreach is approximately 10 years old, and on close examination is no longer serving the original purpose. For this reason, he felt comfortable letting it go.

These cuts, if incorporated into the final budget, would allow a zero increase in Chester County and a .20 mill increase in Lancaster County. Last year, Lancaster County had a 3% decrease due to rebalancing. According to statements made during the meeting, the increase in Lancaster County would still have them paying a millage rate lower than 3-4 years ago.

At the very bottom of Dr Newcome’s list of budget items, and the least desirous to cut, was the complete elimination of busing and Kindergarten.

There was general agreement among the board for Dr Newcome to move forward, incorporating his top four items into the budget. Mr Ganow expressed interest in also incorporating other items, such as Dr Newcome’s energy saving recommendations and paper usage reductions.

The final vote on the proposed budget was held. The current proposed budget includes a .382% increase for Chester County and a  1.091% increase for Lancaster County, but does not yet include the additional budget reductions. The final vote, on the final actual budget, will be in June. In the final vote on the proposed budget this evening, Mr Hume was the only dissenting vote.

7 thoughts on “The Final Countdown

  1. I have to think that the attention you have brought to the Octorara School District budgets, tax increases, school board members, etc., has been instrumental in getting to this point where Chester County property owners may not see an increase in their school taxes. Thank you. I hope you will keep up the good work.

  2. I completely echo the sentiments of CAD. This blog has been resourceful, diligent, intelligent, at times passionate, and ultimately I think persuasive in demonstrating to all parties that the brakes must be applied to OASD taxes…and that some creative ways might be found to actually lower taxes without sacrificing student well-being. And certainly credit is due to board members and administrators who — while one might disagree with a particular decision or another, this vote or that — as a group I believe understand that now, more than ever, aspirations for the optimal educational environment for OASD students must be kept in line with the ability of OASD taxpayers to pay the freight. Thus it seems ever more clear that we all are on the same page; i.e., that unless and until the national economy improves significantly, hopefully taking this part of Chester County along for the ride, then pipe dreams must give way to practicalities.

  3. Consider this a P.S. to my earlier comment. Before posting that earlier comment I had consulted the website of ‘Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.’ Surely, I thought, somebody must have uttered some quotable quote which captured what I wanted to say. And I’m sure somebody has, but I was unwilling to spend an hour or more searching for just the right thing. So here is my own quote, apropos to the job this blog has done in raising public awareness about a pressing public issue: ‘He who manages to change the conversation has already won half the battle.’

    C. Vail

  4. It does seem we have accomplished the goal of no tax increase this year. The next goal is to try and bring that rate down.

    While there were cuts to spending, our rate will be kept flat by using $1,057,000 from the “savings account.” It will be a number which needs to be compensated for next year, in addition to actual increases in costs.

    I believe declining enrollment is our major funding issue, which there is no talk about outside this blog.

    Several years ago, this district cut 29 teachers positions over 2010-11 and 2011-12, and talk about it in a way that makes it seem like an accomplishment.

    Reality is, those two school years represented a dramatic decrease in enrollment. If PA Dept of Ed projections are correct, we will see continued teacher cuts just as a matter of happenstance.

    We must consider school consolidation, and converting one of the buildings into a revenue source. The $6.1 Million in payments to debt is the major factor to our high taxes.

    I believe having one of the building convert to an elementary charter is an excellent idea for accomplishing this.

    An Octorara Elementary Charter would save in busing to AGCS.

    Kids from an Octorara Elementary Charter could reasonably be expected to transition to the public school at the Jr High level, keeping more funds in the district.

    The district would pay the charter tuition, but the charter would pay the district rent.

    Charters are not going away. It is in our best interest to find solutions by partnering, rather than demonizing.

  5. I can’t believe what Brian said on the ranting blog about nobody attending a finance meeting earlier in the year. He said:

    “Brian Norris
    April 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM
    THe budget process actually begins almost as soon as the previous one is passed. I have been at most if not all of the finance commttee meetings the entire process. The administration was given a clear mission to get this as close to zero as possible well before Mr. Alexander ‘s involvement. In fact, he was told in January that is most likely where we would end up. However, since (” I also dont recall anyone from the public ever attending a finance committee meeting, I dont see how anyone could actually report “knowing”what direction the Board gave the administration “). Public involvent in the process is always welcome and appreciated. See you in July!”

    What I would like to tell the viewers of this page is that Brian just told a lie because my girlfriend and I went to a finance meeting and listened to Brian talk about single parenting and how it was their fault our kids are not learning, and he also was pushing to spend, spend, spend as usual. Mr Lapp was disappointed during the entire meeting and stressed out with Brian’s behavior and asked for a zero increase that night. The board including Dr. Newcome was open to ideas that night and a few members agreed to make cuts at that time “EXCEPT: Brian Norris, and Lisa Bowman.

    Tim Alexander stood up at the school board meeting and made it clear that we will not take an increase as the final answer to the budget, and his words, research, and courage got the attention of a few board members push for a zero vote. Mr Lapp would make an excellent school board President in the future. I am not sure why the ranting blog editors are bashing good men like Tim and myself, but the harassment needs to end sometime.

    • Fact is, enough people have both dealt with the board, and/or had run-ins with certain individual board members, that no amount of spin is going to change pubic opinion on this issue. Not everyone is going to agree with my solutions, but most seem to see clearly the cause of the problem.

  6. We need more people to step up in the community and come out to the meetings to voice their concerns. Most people might agree that the board is like a one way street, but Tim has proven that theory incorrect.

    Tim keep up the good work, and we all thank you for your efforts, You really made an impact on the area, and things are getting better!

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