Octorara’s Financial Challenges for This and Next Year

Octorara's Financial Challenges for This and Next Year

Those who have been paying attention know that in June, the Octorara Area School Board passed a budget with full knowledge that spending was far outpacing revenue. This means the DIstrict must either take active measures this year, like not replacing retiring teachers, or make cuts in the upcoming 2018-2019 budget. The Finance Committee Meeting, held on September 18, has revealed some “new” (notice the quotes) issues that will compound the problem. So, let’s talk about some of that.

Pennsylvania’s Budgetary Woes

This is not news. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is having some serious budget and revenue issues. Octorora’s budget relies on receiving roughly $14 million from the state. However, as a consequence of the problems, around $10 million of that funding is at risk. The District has around $8 million in Reserve. So, there is a potential for the DIstrict to literally run out of money before the end of 2017-18, forcing the need for a short-term loan to keep things rolling.

How did this happen? When people hear the term Progressive, they think about left-wing types. Yet, many Republicans love to self-identify as Conservative, when they are really right-wing Progressives. What is the difference between left and right-wing Progressives? Not much. They both love large, bloated, and intrusive government. They both love to spend your money. The only difference is their priorities and the issues important to them. And, that is what we have in Harrisburg, despite the Republican legislature… a fat, bloated state government that loves to write checks they can’t pay for. Continue reading

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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

What Octorara Issues Are Important to You?

What Octorara Issues Are Important to You?

There are a lot of ways that I attempt to gauge public opinion. I talk with neighbors and other parents. I receive input and advice from several prominent community members. I have even been known to randomly ask people questions in the store.

Moreover, I also try to prioritize voices, and will tend to avoid contact with lobbying groups outside of the Board environment. The loudest voices often don’t represent the interest of the majority. I empathize with retirees and taxpayers. Additionally, I try to place Octorara in perspective compared to other local districts.

After winning my first term, I also conducted an independent survey. While it was not scientific, it did provide some valuable insights.

Octorara received high marks in some areas, and the majority agreed that:

  • The Octorara campus is safe.
  • The schools look and feel like a place where learning occurs.
  • I have the opportunity for involvement in the schools.
  • School facilities are clean and well maintained.
  • Octorara does a good job teaching basic skills.
  • My student has a close relationship with at least one adult at the school.

The District struggled in other areas. The majority of respondents disagreed with these statements: 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