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

This Final 2017-2018 Budget Showdown Is About to Begin

Octorara Property Tax Increase

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings, and the Work Session Meeting on Monday, May 8, 2017. Seven Board members were in attendance. Hank Oleyniczak and Nelson Stoltzfus were both absent.

Final 2017-2018 Budget Vote Countdown

Typically, by this point of the process, there is a level of certainty with the budget. The Octorara Area School Board has already voted to present to the public a 2017-2018 Budget that includes $54 million in expenditures, a 3.2% property tax increase, and a $563,000 expected use of fund balance. In years past, with the exception of some minor updates, that would be the Budget the Board would vote on come June.

However, the very evident public anger over another property tax increase calls this into question. Regardless, the proposed cure may cause more problems than it fixes. We have all seen those pharmaceutical commercials trying to sell you a drug to cure some affliction. But, then comes the list of side effects at the end… may cause insomnia, suicidal thoughts, kidney failure, problems with memory, tremors, nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, fatigue, high blood pressure, and risk of heart attack. Is a cure for toenail fungus really worth all that?

Taxing Less and Spending More

Well, the idea placed into the discussion last month by Brian Norris, and supported by Lisa Bowman, is to have a 2 percent property tax increase, rather than the full Act 1 limit increase of 3.2 percent. The change in the Budget would cause an increase in deficit spending from $563,000 to over $940,000. Moreover, the decrease in revenue, without corresponding budget cuts, will have a compounding effect going into future budgets. This could dramatically impact the financial health of the District. We will start the next budget process with a large revenue deficit before even one new dollar is added for just regular and predictable cost increases. Continue reading

Lice Infestations, Property Taxes & School District Transparency

Skyrocketing Property Taxes & School District Transparency

I want to start my blog by thanking every person who showed up at last night’s meeting. In my opinion, believe it or not, that was probably the most productive School Board Meeting that I have attended. That was all because motivated people came out and spoke up. Before today, I don’t believe that some of my Board colleagues thought I expressed the real opinions of real people. They needed to hear what I have heard for the last 4 years. That said, real change will require citizens to become activists.

Many of those who attended last night’s meeting passionately spoke about the real impact of our high taxes. One speaker offered to provide the Board with a powerpoint report that revealed her own independent research about spending and return on investment. Others talked about the negative impact on home values, the difficulties selling properties, and how young families are not choosing our area. There are those who like living here, but taxes are forcing them to leave.

In addition, there were parents who were angry that the District did not think to communicate with parents when the security guard fired his weapon to kill a raccoon. The idea that parents should have been notified seemed confusing to some Board members. Parents expressed genuine outrage, sometimes shouting from the audience, when Board members attempted to defend the lack of communication.

= Firearm Use & Transparency =

The recent incident with Octorara’s security officer using his firearm is an almost perfect example of why I originally ran for the School Board. When I first started going to Board Meetings on a regular basis, I created this website to document my experience. Very quickly, one of the main focuses was highlighting issues that I believed the District was not being completely forthright about. When I was elected, one of my promises was to keep the public informed about issues they may not find out about just by attending a Board Meeting,  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