Kutztown School Board approves tax increase, debates costs of helmets

Patriot photo by Roxanne Richardson Kutztown School Board discusses helmets during the budget discussion on June 17.

Kutztown School Board voted approved the 2013-14 final budget with a 1.7 percent increase Monday.

Last year’s mil rate was 28.7577 and is now increased to 29.2465 mil rate showing an increase of .4888 mils. A home valued at $100,000 will see a $48.88 increase in property tax.

Motion to approve the budget was made by Amy Faust, seconded by Craig Schroeder, and a 7 to 1 vote approved the adoption of the final 2013-2014 Kutztown Area School District General Fund Budget with revenues of $28,605,700 and expenditures of 29,820,350 supported by Real Estate Tax (29.2465 mils); Per Capita Tax, Sec. 679 ($5.00); Per Capita Tax, Act 511 ($5.00); Local Services Tax ($5.00); Earned Income Tax (0.5%); Amusement Tax (5%-10%); and committed and uncommitted fund balance in the amount of $1,214,650..

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Al Darion voted no. Caecilia Holt was absent.

One of the line items, helmets, was trimmed from the preliminary budget of $20,000 to $12,500. The budget for football helmets was also to include helmets for field hockey.

“The difficulty that they faced is that right now the inventory shows us that they purchased a large number all at once because the money became available; somebody gave them the money for helmets. When those run out again, we have to buy them all at once again,” said Superintendent Katherine Metrick. “So that was why he was looking at doing the rotation, however, if there is a way to buy more than what he had planned this year, he’s 100 percent in favor of that because we get more new helmets on the heads of the kids sooner.”

“I know our numbers are up because of Brandywine co-op, but I also understand that we’ve had years that we’ve used half of the helmets,” said Faust.

Faust suggested the district order, for example, 60 one year and then 60 the following year to rotate them and they get reconditioned whether they are used or not. This way the helmets could be worked into the budget as each rotation comes around.

As far as field hockey goes, a total of 60 helmets were requested which included middle and high school. The team does not have an official booster club and the football booster club is already committed to other fundraisers.

Although the field hockey helmets are not required by PIAA, they did start requiring goggles a couple of years ago.

“Because they’re seeing so many more face injuries. Even among my coaching staff, I’ve got stitches in my face several times throughout my playing career,” said Eryn Ziegler, field hockey coach.

Ziegler said two of her coachers broke their orbital bone while they were playing and how injuries seem to be on the rise. Although use of the goggles helped, Kutztown is one of the few schools still playing on a grass field. On turf, it is a lot more predictable because of not having random divots in the ground sending the ball flying randomly.

“Almost 80 percent of our games are on our grass field this year and especially with that much traffic on our field throughout the season it gets chewed up and as that ball starts flying hitting the ruts and the divots that you get on a grass field, it’s also on a hill so you never know, you start seeing more of that head injury,” said Ziegler. “You can’t prepare for the unexpected fouls that the ground causes. That’s where we see most of head injuries from the ball unfortunately.”

Ziegler said she had students with a total of five concussions last year. Two of her starters were out for the district playoff game. Without the starters, putting a team together is difficult to field a playoff game.

“That’s something that we can’t really afford especially with such low numbers from a school this small to put into a district playoff game,” said Ziegler. “I have had kids who have gotten so many concussions at this point that they’re recovery time is becoming longer and longer.”

Two of the players will be definitely wearing helmets next year, no matter what, because they’ve had so many concussions at this point. One of them happens to be one of the National History Day Winners and three of the four from the middle school NHD team are on the field hockey team. They just got a first in the nation; let’s protect them, said the coach.

“My job is to advocate for my kids and their brains are part of that,” said Coach Ziegler.

Toward the end of the budget meeting, discussions turned back to the helmets. The tone of the discussion warned of the seriousness of how a concussion causes life-changes and even being linked to Alzheimer’s.

“From my perspective, I have a difficult time telling a taxpayer who is strapped for cash that we’re going to spend this money because we’re playing this violent sport and we have to protect them as well as we can,” said Carl H. Ziegler, board president. “I think my solution that would allow me to move forward would be to say, all right if you’re interested on playing, we do provide certain things and you’re going to have to buy the helmet.”

“What is the role of the entire sports program education? Educational value to extracurricular activities including sports should be available to everyone free of charge because it is a free public education. If it is not a valuable piece of the educational program, then it should be eliminated,” said Darion as he read from a computer screen. “A valuable piece of the educational program needs to be supported. To me, that’s the more fundamental question.”

According to the Interscholastic Athletics Policy, students must meet academic eligibility requirements, comply with a code of conduct, attend school regularly, adhere to discipline standards, return school equipment and that is just pertaining to on-campus.

The board recognizes the value of a program of interscholastic athletics as an integral part of the total school experience for all district students and as a conduit for community involvement. This is the policy’s opening statement of purpose adopted May 20, 1991, and revised as recently as Sept. 17, 2012.

School board approved policies can be found at http://www.kasd.org/school_board.cfm?subpage=1019133