One of Daniel Boone’s newest school board members, Richard Martino, Douglassville, was elected board president Dec. 2, with a 5-4 vote during the board’s reorganization.
The reorganization meeting’s Temporary President Connor Kurtz made the decisive vote for Martino.
Martino is chairman of the Daniel Boone Taxpayer Activists.
He has attended school board meetings for many years and has been a proponent against tax increases.
The board welcomed four new board members that will serve four year terms: Martino, David Rathgeb, Douglassville; Carol Beitz, Union Township, and Suzanne Dungan, Borough of Birdsboro.
Tamara Twardowski was reelected in November to also represent the Borough of Birdsboro for a two-year term.
Twardowski was the other nominee for board president.
Previous board president since Dec. 1, 2010, Andrew Basile, withdrew his nomination, made by returning board member Monica Hamill.
Martino was elected by Beitz, Dungan, Kurtz, Rathgeb, and his own vote.
Twardowski was supported by Basile, Hamill, Robert D. McLaughlin, and her own vote.
Kurtz was later elected board vice president.
Hamill was unanimously approved to continue as board secretary and to also serve as the board’s representative to the Blazer Foundation Committee for a one-year term.
Upon his election as president, Martino said he thanked the public and the board for electing him.
“After sitting in the public for as long as I have, I would like to see us get an understanding of each other. [New board members] have a lot to learn and with the help of the administration and experienced board members, we will be fine.”
He said he would like to see the board, teachers, the community, the sports and music boosters clubs, and parents have improved communication.
“I invite you to participate in meetings and to be more informed. With a ($3.6 million) budget deficit there is a lot of work to do. We need your input, and when people come to the microphone, I would like to see them come with solutions. We need your ideas to help us close the budget gap -- we don’t want to cut sports.”
Superintendent Dr. Gary L. Otto, whose retirement is effective Dec. 20, congratulated the new board members, thanked the returning board members, and said to the public that “personal attacks don’t help anyone during the budget process.”
“The board does the best they can with what they have to work with,” said Otto. “It’s not going to get better for quite a while yet, although there may now be a light at the end of the tunnel. On behalf of those 3,600 kids, good luck. Good luck and may you bring this community together.”
Shane Kochel, Union Township, and a regular attendee at board meetings, said to Martino his idea for everyone to come together sounds great.
“But how [is the school district going] to pay for these things we want to keep in this school?” asked Kochel.
He said Pennsylvania schools are funded and function through the property tax system.
“The board has continually avoided raising taxes,” said Kochel. “How am I supposed to erase a $3 million hole, when we’re supposed to give our kids the best education we can? It’s not fair for the community to help balance your budget when there has been little or no tax increase the last couple of years -- when the system to fund the school is by taxes. Is there anything that you can add to your comment of how we can help close the budget gap?”
Martino replied, “I personally don’t feel that I have the moral authority to raise taxes above some people’s ability to pay. So, I would prefer to not raise taxes. I think as a group we need to look at every penny spent. If we cannot find enough areas to tighten up and a tax increase is required, we have no choice. But that is not my first choice.”
Members of the public have requested the last two years that the board increase taxes to retain programs.
The board approved in June the following personnel changes: to furlough four elementary Encore teachers in computer, library, music, and art, 3.5 elementary teachers, one High School business education teacher, one part-time physical education teacher, one High School traffic safety position, and one High School part-time science teacher.
Instruction time for elementary encores were reduced from 45 minutes to 30 minutes.
The board will review on Dec. 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m., the 2014-15 “balanced budget model” with recommendations to curtail programs, a tax increase, and use of the district’s fund balance.
Basile said the board has a lot of time-sensitive issues to discuss: sports for the High School’s 2014-15 course selections, and kindergarten for the March enrollment process.