The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held their monthly Work Session Meeting, and Facilities Committee Meeting, on June 8, 2015. All nine Board Members were in attendance at the Work Session.
During the Board Meeting, the Directors voted unanimously to reject the Fact Finder Report issued by Timothy J. Brown, and was presented the Agenda Items to be voted on at the Regular Meeting on June 15th.
2015-2016 Final Budget Presentation
At the next Regular Meeting, the Board will be voting to adopt the 2015-2016 Final Budget in the amount of $50.7 Million, and vote to increase taxes in Chester County to 37.51 mills and Lancaster County to 27.20 mills.
The tax increase, which is the maximum allowed by law without exceptions or voter referendum, raises $693,822 of the $2.5 Million needed to balance the budget. The remaining $1.7 Million will be paid for with the Reserve.
However, next year’s budget is only a $1.5 Million increase over the current budget. Of that increase, almost $1 Million are increases to Retirement and Medical costs, and another $519,225 for Special Education.
Medical costs for the District have increased from $1.8 Million in 2007-2008 to $2.8 Million in 2013-2014, and the District expects to end 2014-2015 again at around the $2.8 Million mark. The District’s cost for Retirement has grown from 4.76% of salaries in 2007-2008 to 21.40% of salaries in 2014-2015. Retirement will increase to 25.84% of salaries in 2015-2016, and is projected to become 29.69% of salaries in 2016-2017.
Octorara’s Reserve Balance was $8.3 Million in June 2013, but the 2013-2014 deficit and 2014-2015 deficit will have us ending this year with the balance reduced to $7.4 Million. By the end of the 2015-2016 year, the Reserve is projected to be only $5.6 Million.
The District’s policy mandates that a Reserve Balance must be maintained at 3% of Budget. So, for example, a $50 Million Budget requires that $1.5 Million be in Reserve. Once the Reserve Balance drops to that level, the District cannot use Reserve funds to balance. Taxes would have to be raised to make up any difference or, if taxes cannot be raised, programs and services will need to be cut. We are expecting to hit that wall in 2-3 years, even with no new costs.
Rejection of Fact Finder Report
The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors unanimously voted to reject the Fact Finder Report by Timothy J. Brown.
The Board identified two glaring mistakes in the report that made it impossible to pass:
- The Fact Finder recommended a three tiered benefit plan. However, Independence Blue Cross has informed the Board that no such plan is available.
- A prescription plan was not accounted for in the recommendations. This essentially would have removed prescription coverage from the contract.
However, even if these obvious errors were not an issue in determining whether to accept or reject the report, the Board would have rejected it due to the long term cost, and the impact the contract would have on the District and the education provided to our children.
The District must evaluate what the community can afford to pay, not what the Board Directors can legally levee in taxes, and the impact of costs on programs for students.
The District has offered a proposal that:
- Provides pay increases to all staff;
- Decreases monthly health care premium co-share to eligible employees, the result of which is more money in those employees’ pay checks;
- Contributes tax-free contributions into employee owned Health Savings Accounts, and
- Maintains jobs and programs.
The Board looks forward to returning to the negotiating table until a deal is completed that is financially sustainable, and will not impact the students in the classroom.
Graduation Class of 2015
I would like to congratulate the Octorara Class of 2015, who graduated on Friday, June 5th. Every speaker, both student and staff, had some special quote to help inspire these young adults in their future. This is one that I would like to share, and have carried with me for almost 25 years:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ― Calvin Coolidge
No matter what your goals, no matter how you define success, dedication and persistence will be the characteristics that are most valuable.
I give you as an example, a man born into poverty, who faced defeat throughout his life, twice failed in business, and who even suffered a nervous breakdown. Despite this man starting with little means or education, with honesty and hard work he overcame numerous obstacles and failures to become one of the greatest Presidents in America’s history. That man was Abraham Lincoln.
No matter what obstacles get in your way, one only fails when one quits.
I would also like to thank Dr. Newcome, Dr. Rohrer, and all those who worked so hard to make this a great event, and for the opportunity I was given to personally award my son with his diploma. It is an experience and memory that I will cherish, and I am deeply appreciative.