|Parkesburg-South||Londonderry Twp||Highland Twp||Total|
|Charlie Koennecker Jr||75||85||80||240|
|Rocco Pirozzi Jr||60||31||17||108|
|Robert Matthew Hurley||74||71||77||222|
|Parkesburg-South||Londonderry Twp||Highland Twp||Total|
|Robert Matthew Hurley||60||49||20||129|
|Rocco Pirozzi Jr||32||29||8||69|
|Charlie Koennecker Jr||56||51||20||127|
I would like to congratulate the winners on their victory, and their supporters. At this time, the Octorara Area School District has many challenges ahead, and, for the sake of our students and the community as a whole, I wish them success.
I also want to thank Rocco Pirozzi Jr for the work that he put into both of our campaigns. I believe that his dedication and devotion to the principles of family, freedom, lower taxes, limited government, and Americanism will continue to benefit Parkesburg and the Octorara Area School District.
Additionally, I send a thank you to my wife, Sandi. It is because of her compassion and loving care that I was able to volunteer my time on the Octorara Area School Board. She has been my most passionate supporter and harshest critic. Moreover, I thank my children, both for their work with my campaign and tolerating my ravings.
Finally, to the team of volunteers who worked on behalf of Rocco’s and my campaigns… I am truly grateful. Thank you for the hours, and the encouragement and passion you provided. You gave us the inspiration to run, and I can’t imagine a group more enthusiastic.
I ran for School Director because I am deeply concerned about the Octorara Area School District. While the Primary is over, the distress and unease remain. Our community cannot continue to absorb the current rate a property tax growth. Our District cannot continue to grow the budget faster than it can tax. Our children cannot continue to receive a sub-par education and declining achievement scores.
The winners of this election have taken ownership of the outcomes of our School District. It is my hope that they work for the entire community and in the best interest of all students when making their decisions. Therefore, this defeat may ultimately serve as a victory in the long run. While my campaign is over, together, we must work towards improving the Octorara Area School District for all students and the success of the whole community.
2017-2018 Octorara Budget Update
I apologize for not publishing my typical Board Meeting briefing on the normal day. However, the Primary Election took most of my time yesterday. So, I am adding a short update within today’s blog entry.
The Octorara Area Board of Directors and Finance Committee met on Monday, May 15, 2017. Each of the Board members was in attendance. Moreover, the main topic of conversation was the 2017-2018 Octorara Budget and five-year projections.
Mr. Jeff Curtis, the business manager, provided the Finance Committee with several projection scenarios. Of each of the options, without making cuts, only constant, yearly tax increases of 3.2 percent kept the District somewhat healthy. While even at this rate, the district is overspending revenue and eating into the Reserve, it slows the process of financial collapse.
There are two problems with this. First, there is no way to accurately project our Act 1 increase limits into the future. Therefore, we could find ourselves in a situation of not being able to tax up to the 3.2 percent. In which case, we will burn through our Reserve Fund faster, and could go negative.
The second problem is that I do not believe the community can absorb property tax hikes of 3.2 percent every year for the next five years. Regardless, taxing any less will cause us to burn through our reserve within 5 years or less. At the end of the day, our current spending and rate of budget growth is unsustainable.
The Tax Discussion
Lisa Bowman and Brian Norris continued to propose only a 2 percent tax hike. For the most part, Norris dismisses the projections and ignores the fact that we have been subsidizing the budget using debt refinancing.
Brian Fox’s position was to tax up to the 3.2 percent increase this year, and then look at cuts next year. While I don’t agree, his position is based on sound reasoning. Taxing at a lower rate this year, without corresponding cuts, creates a revenue hole that will be difficult to fill.
William Kloss argued for a 2.25 percent tax increase if there is a commitment to make roughly $500,000 in cuts down the road. He is looking to use a combination of tax increases and budget cuts to keep the District financially healthy. He believes that a 2 percent tax increase would require $1 million in cuts, and he believes that is too drastic.
Samual Ganow agreed with me that both the proposed 2 and 2.25 percent tax increases are arbitrary numbers. Regardless, he did seem willing to vote for 2.25 percent if there is a commitment to make cuts next year. Ganow acknowledged that in recent years, debt refinance has been used in lieu of the Reserve Fund. That option is no longer available.
Of course, my position is a zero tax increase with cuts of $1.5 million. This will both provide relief to taxpayers and address the District’s long-term financial issues. But, it would require the Board looking at things like building consolidation and other actions that they simply refuse to do. As I stated in the meeting, our community is already taxed too high, and increases of 2.25 percent every year, for the nest 5 years, is still too much.
The remaining Board members seemed to all fall in line with a tax increase of 2.25 percent. That said, none seemed to have put much thought into what to do next. I suspect they are willing to vote for the lower tax because of the public outcry, but they are not really looking any farther down the road.
The New Teacher’s Contract
Those who paid attention to Monday’s meeting noticed that there was a vote on a new Teacher’s contract. If you are thinking we just voted on a contract not that long ago, you are right. This new Teacher’s contract was an “early bird” negotiation, and the contract does not begin until the 2018-2019 school year.
The new Teacher’s contract passed 8 to 1. I was the one dissenting vote. Why? Simply put, we don’t have the money to pay for it. While the District’s press release touts cost savings, the fact is that the new contract will add over $800,000 to the cost of operations. This is money we don’t have, and we are unable to raise with new taxes.
I believe the Board could have negotiated a budget neutral contract. While there are some good reasons for negotiating the contract this early, we were under no obligation to accept a contract that we could not afford. I believe our District must be much more aggressive in these negotiations. We just can’t continue paying for salary increases by cutting teaching positions.