The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Boone board hears final budget pleas


By Denise Larive, For 21st Century Media

Friday, June 14, 2013

The nine member Daniel Boone School Board will vote June 17 on a 2013-14 budget and two measures that will balance the current budget deficit of about $2 million.
One of those measures is to demote two professionals, suspend seven professionals and five classified staff, and transfer 40 professionals and 27 classified staff, by first voting to curtail the programs associated with the staff.
A balanced and approved budget is required by June 30.
The preliminary budget of $52.45 million, using up to $2.3 million fund balance, no tax increase, and the following program curtailments, was approved by the board at its May 20 voting meeting: four elementary Encore teachers in computer, library, music, and art, 3.5 elementary teachers, one High School business education teacher, three elementary basic math skills positions, one part-time physical education teacher, one High School traffic safety position, and one High School part-time science teacher.
Sherry Rogers, computer teacher at Amity Intermediate Center, received applause from fellow teachers when she asked the board how they expect her to now teach students at Birdsboro Elementary Center in 2013-14 with hours reduced to part-time.
Superintendent Dr. Gary L. Otto has said that all of the proposed program curtailments and resulting furloughs and demotions are the result of declining pupil enrollment and a projected continued declining enrollment.
Board members agreed with the public May 20 that the fund balance money is the taxpayer’s money and should be used to keep the programs, but the board was split on raising taxes above the current 28.9618 mills to keep staff.
As of April 22, the board proposed using fund balance money and raising taxes to the maximum with a .666 tax levy to eliminate the deficit.
The board has not accepted the Daniel Boone Education Association’s $2 million wage concession offer.
DBEA President Amy Hicks said the offer was made in exchange for programs to be saved, but that the eighth grade World Language program was cut two years ago despite the DBEA‘s $1 million in wage concessions.
School Board President Andrew Basile said the DBEA’s current offer extends their current contract by another year, making the four-year contact a six-year contact and resulting in an average savings of $500,000 each year.
“As a homeowner, I see ‘for-sale’ signs popping up and people saying their children deserve better,” said Hicks, explaining why people are moving out of the district. “I have watched fellow colleagues that have been notified during the school day of a furlough, and my son’s transcript will not make him competitive. The board wants you to believe the financial situation is a result of the teacher salaries, but they are in line with other district salaries.”
“You have enough money on the table to save all the programs,” said Hicks. “I know that I represent a large constituency of what the public said last time: do the right thing -- accept our proposal -- save the community.”
“Changes would jeopardize the integrity of the elementary programs,” said Robert Hampton, Douglassville, on May 20, adding, “To raise taxes is the correct way to remedy the problem -- not cut programs.”
“The people in this room voted you in and I think everyone is saying now -- raise taxes and stop cutting programs and teachers,” said Brian Owens, Rosecliff Drive, Douglassville, echoing Hampton’s statement, and repeating, “Since everyone voted you in to do your job -- raise our taxes and stop cutting the programs. We’re asking teachers to cut their salaries?”
The pending budget decision was not on the board’s June 10 Committee of the Whole meeting agenda for discussion and members gave no indication of changes in sentiments.
Member Monica Hamill said the Revenue Enhancement Committee is recommending a new sports and extracurricular fee structure for 2013-14.
Category A sports would be $150 (instead of $300) for boy’s basketball, golf, softball, baseball, volleyball, football and marching band; Category B would be $140 (instead of $225) for wrestling, field hockey, track, and bowling; Category C would be $130 (instead of $150) for soccer, indoor color guard, winter guard, cheerleading, percussion ensemble, and cross country.
The price per club participation would be $30 instead of the proposed $55.
“I’m not in favor of changing the fees -- the budget reflects the current fees and we keep throwing surpluses,” said member Walter P. Sheehan. “I’m okay with a $50 parking fee and $30 facility use fee, but can’t see hurting taxpayers with an increased activity fee structure -- not next year, at least for me.”
Basile said the new fee structure is “great” and he supports it, but asked for feedback from Athletic Facilitator Michelle Goss of the potential financial impact on families.
“We’re not raising taxes but we’re asking parents to pay higher fees?” said member Scott Potts. “Twin Valley is in worse shape than us and they haven’t raised their fees.”
The REC will meet June 19 to discuss the revised activity fee structure.
“You keep taxing our students with these fees, why?” asked Monica Lacey, Douglassville. “There is no need for a meeting on June 19; you have your answer -- don’t raise the fees -- stop taxing our students.”