Octorara School Board Prepares for 2.25% Property Tax Hike Vote

Octorara School Board Prepares for 2.25% Property Tax Hike Vote

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings, and the Work Session Meeting on Monday, June 12, 2017. All nine Board Members were in attendance.

With the exception of two items of note, Monday’s Committee and Board Meetings were generally unremarkable. The Facilities and Policy Committees are dealing with rather routine issues. While it is important work, most of it is also not very newsworthy.

Octorara SD’s 2.25% Property Tax Increase

During the Work Session Meeting, Board Members reviewed the changes made to the 2017-2018 Budget since the initial Draft Presentation back in December. Most can easily be described as minor and peripheral. The one major change that many people are concerned with is the lowering of the property tax increase from 3.2 percent to 2.25 percent. Next week, Board Members will vote to increase the real estate property tax millage rate in Chester County to 39.49 and in Lancaster County to 29.45.

I will be voting against both the budget and the tax increase, and here is why. First, with as high as the tax rate already is, I believe any tax increase is too much. Over the last 15 years, property taxes have grown at a much faster rate than incomes. Additionally, our retirees have it the hardest. Since 2010, their social security cost-of-living increases have been small or nonexistent. In many respects, the Board wants you to be grateful that they only punched you in the face rather than kicked you in the groin, as they originally intended. Continue reading

Octorara’s School Director Projected Winners… Plus, a Budget Update

Octorara's School Director Projected Winners... Plus, a Budget Update

Republican
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
Timothy Alexander 51 31 21 103
Democrats
Parkesburg-South Londonderry Twp Highland Twp Total
Timothy Alexander 28 11 7 46
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. Continue reading

Are You Prepared for Another Property Tax Hike?

Octorara Enrollment History

The Octorara Area Board of Directors and Finance Committee met on Monday, March 20, 2017. Seven Board members were in attendance. Sam Ganow and Hank Oleyniczak were both absent.

Push Back on a False Narrative

If you watched the live-stream of last night’s meeting, you would have heard Lisa Bowman, Board President, claim that there had been no suggestions or support for Budget reductions from any Board Member. I had to push back and spoke up. I had to remind Bowman that just in November, we had a heated discussion about building consolidation. In fact, since the very beginning of the budget process, I have suggested other ideas like returning to half-day kindergarten, eliminating the 1-to-1 iPad program, and getting rid of the armed security guard. I have even advocated taking a close look at CTE programs.

While these ideas may not be popular with other Board Members, the notion that no Board Member has supported reductions, that would limit the budget’s growth, is a complete and utter deception. If you watch the video, you will see that Bowman did immediately walk back her statement when confronted. Regardless, this has become habitual behavior from both her and Brian Norris. Almost every year, since I have been on the Board, either she, Norris, or both have tried to make claims like this or that certain votes meant more than written. Each time, I have had to push back.

There is a reality with our financial situation. Years before the 2016-17 budget, I warned that cuts were inevitable, while certain other Board Members were describing me as Chicken Little. I stated that if we did not control the growth of the budget, the choice of making cuts will be taken out of our hands. That is exactly what happened. Last year, the Board passed a budget with roughly $600,000 in cuts and taxed up to the legal limit. Even with that, it required a significant use of Fund Balance. That said, we did really luck out with interest rates and being able to refinance more debt, and that savings may end up eliminating this year’s deficit. But we all need to appreciate the luck that was involved that this was able to happen. Continue reading

BREAKING NEWS: New Push For PA School Property Tax Elimination Expected

New Push For PA School Property Tax Elimination Expected

The Octorara Area Board of Directors and Finance Committee met on Monday, January 16, 2017. Eight Board members were in attendance. Anthony Falgiatore was absent.

2017-2018 Budget Update

While the overall agenda was limited, the Finance Committee and Board did receive an update on the 2017-2018 Budget. Some of the presentation was a formalized reporting of what we have already been told. However, there was some new data and projections.

  • Early State Funding Estimates – Our developing budget does not include increases in State spending for Basic Ed, Special Ed , or Ready to Learn. This is because Pennsylvania is suffering from a revenue shortfall of $260 Million, which is expected to grow to $600 Million. There are rumors that some in the General Assembly are working to add $100 Million to Basic Education, but, for now, it is just that… rumors.
  • Anticipated Use of Fund Balance –  In December, the originally reported Anticipated Use of Fund Balance was $577.285. After the actual Debt Service refinancing, this number has increased to $652,775.
  • Taxing to the Act 1 Limit – The current deficit of $1.2 Million and an Anticipated Use of Fund Balance of $652,775 are based on a 3.2% Property Tax increase.

The Blue & The Yellow

The Finance Committee has requested an update of the infamous Blue & Yellow List, which we will loosely describe as a list of potential cuts. Last year’s list included such things as: Continue reading

Octorara Eyeing Up 3.2% Property Tax Increase

Octorara Eyeing Up 3.2% Property Tax Increase

The Octorara Area Board of Directors and Finance Committee met on Monday, December 12, 2016. Eight Board members were in attendance. Hank Olejniczak was absent.

Board member absenteeism is a big pet peeve for me. It is something I mentioned privately to Board leadership about this time last year. There were several members of the previous Board that (to me) seemed over the top. In fact, one member, for two consecutive years, knowingly scheduled family vacations when the Board was voting on the budget,,, arguably the most important vote made. This year, I am taking it upon myself to make public the most egregious attendance violator… Hank Olejniczak

  • RS 12/12/2016
  • WS 11/12/2016
  • RS 10/17/2016
  • WS 09/12/2016
  • WS 06/13/2016
  • RS 05/16/2016
  • RS 04/18/2016
  • RS 02/23/2016

Mr. Olejniczak missed 8 of the 23 Board meetings (35%) and corresponding committee meetings. Within those numbers, 5 of 12 Regular Sessions (roughly 41% of voting meetings) were missed. Moreover, Olejniczak could have potentially lost his Board position under 24 P.S. 319 for missing two consecutive Regular Sessions, but the law is a bit vague in defining a “necessary absence”. However, while the law empowers the Board to remove someone like Olejniczak, who has an outrageous record for missing meetings, it does not seem to necessarily compel a vote. It all really comes down to the discretion of Board leadership to make it an issue.

Therefore, since friends don’t vote friends off the Board, it is up to voters to decide if absenteeism is a real issue. Regardless, the only way to know if your Board Members are showing up to meetings is by meticulous tracking absenteeism on your own. There is no reporting mechanism in place to inform taxpayers and the general public of a Board Member’s attendance record. You need to pick through each month’s meeting minutes and chart each them individually.

Hank Oleyniczak is up for re-election this year in Region 2. Continue reading