The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Regular Meeting, and Finance and Policy Committee Meetings on April 20, 2015. Eight Board Members were in attendance, Shawna Johnson was absent.
During the meeting, the Board approved all listed recommended action items.
Other than some minor alterations, the 2015-16 Budget has gone unchanged from our previous discussions.
The 2015-16 Budget currently includes $50.7 Million in Expenditures, a $1.5 Million increase over 2014-15, with $48.2 Million in Revenue.
The resulting $2.45 Million shortfall will be paid for by a tax increase, that will generate $693,822, and by using $1.76 Million from the Fund.
The millage in Chester County will be 37.51, an increase of 2.3% from 2014-2015, and the millage in Lancaster County will be 27.20, an increase of 2.9%.
Resolution Authorizing Proposed Budget Display and Advertising
This evening, the Board passed a resolution authorizing the Proposed Budget’s Display and Advertising. It is a requirement of the State that Districts display their Budgets for at least 30 days prior to the final vote. This resolution was passed now because waiting till May would only be 28 days.
The resolution passed unanimously, absent one. However, after the vote, Lisa Bowman stated that the unanimous vote represented agreement with the current Budget, but if that was not the case, speak now or forever hold your peace. I spoke up.
Mr Curtis repeatedly stated this resolution does not tie Board members to this Budget, nor does it obligate them to vote in any specific way in June. The only purpose for the resolution was for the purpose of “Display and Advertising.” My vote was to open the Budget to public review and discussion, not to show agreement or end discussion among Board members.
I reminded my colleagues that Dr Newcome mentioned creating a “cut list” last month and I would like to explore making cuts to the budget that will either reduce the amount needed from the Fund, or reduce the total tax increase.
Objection to Boy Scout Assemblies
Earlier this year, a local Boy Scout troop was allowed to give a presentation to students, at an assembly during school hours. This week, The Freethought Society visited the Octorara Are School Board, to “educate” us about the evils of the Boy Scouts of America, and their “practice of discrimination” against atheists.
When I first heard the claims, I wanted to know what the Boy Scouts policies really were, not what they are said to be. The Scouts have badges representing 39 religions that include not only a variety of Christian denominations, Judaism, and Islam, but also religions like such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. These badges, and the associated workbooks, are developed by corresponding religious organizations, not the Scouts themselves
Yes, the Scouts do want members to profess a belief in God, but it is whatever God means to them. They don’t make kids pray, and they don’t require them to go to church. It is very difficult for me to accept the label of the Scouts being discriminatory when they use the word “God” so broadly that it could mean Yahweh, Allah, Dionysos, or Cthulhu.
I read through what The Freethought Society has written about all this… what they sent to the Board, posted on their website, what they wrote in their newsletter, and what they said to local news. They mention that the Boy Scouts are a nonsecular organization, but their entire argument seemed focused on Christianity. The Boy Scouts are nonsecular, not Christian. In fact, their partnership with Buddhism (which could be described as a nontheist religion) dates back to the 1920s.
In this debate, repeatedly referenced was the Separation of Church and State, and the First Amendment. What does the First Amendment say?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The Boy Scouts of America is not a religious organization; it is a nonsecular organization. The Scouts do not represent any establishment of religion, and the District allowing the Scouts into the school is not an endorsement of any religion. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the Boy Scouts should continue to be allowed into the school.
I was very happy to see members of the community show up, speak up, and support the Boy Scouts. I don’t think this issue is going away, but I am happy to see some level of unity within the community.