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

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

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