The October 16, 2015, Regular Board Meeting, of the Octorara Area School Board of Directors, was the last for three of our members. Shawna Johnson (6 years), Sheri Melton (4 years), and Leon Lapp Jr. (4 years) made their last votes, each having decided not to run for re-election. Each received a plaque for their service, and made statements of appreciation regarding their experiences.
Brian Fox, Stephen Spoto, and Linda Bicking are expected to join the Board at the Reorganization Meeting on December 7th. Fox and Spoto have both attended and spoke at Board Meetings in the recent past. Linda Bicking, I believe, is the same Linda Bicking from Region 1 who served on the Board for several terms, most notably during the the expansion of the District with the building of the Intermediate School and High School project.
2016-2017 Budget Update
During the Finance Committee Meeting, the members were given the 2016-2017 Budget Timeline, which requires a decision on whether or not to apply for Act 1 Exemptions by January 4th, which would allow the District to tax beyond the limit. The base Act 1 limit is 2.4%. Octorara’s adjusted limit is 3%. If the District applied for each Exception we qualified for, the Board could potentially raise taxes up to 4.86%.
During this time, members discussed a potential budget deal between Gov Wolf and state Republicans. Wolf wants to increase the state sales tax from 6% to 7.25%, and use the increase to subsidize property taxes. The Republicans want protection that the money would not just be gobbled up by districts, and property taxes would continue to increase.
The potential deal would strip school boards from raising property taxes on their own, and would require all school property taxes to be placed on the ballot as a voter referendum. The idea of this as an outcome concerns several Board Members who believe school property tax increases would never be passed.
The possibility had Brian Norris, Board Vice-President, arguing that we should take the Act 1 Exemptions, increasing taxes by 4.86%, to ensure the District gets as much revenue as possible before leaving it in voters hands.
There does not seem to be much support for Mr Norris’ suggestions currently. However, we will have three new Board members in December. Who knows how this will turn out? We may find ourselves in a heated Budget battle over the Winter and Spring.
In Other News…
The bond refinancing has been finalized. The District will apply $375,000 of the savings to the current year, and $376,000 to 2016-2017. This gives us an update to the District’s 2015-2016 projections, with a deficit of under $1 Million.