Oley Valley funded Zackon Memorial with taxpayer funds

Oley Valley School Board members were forced to admit at their Jan. 15 meeting that the district spent nearly $20,000 in taxpayer money on a memorial service held for Dr. Jeffrey F. Zackon, the district’s former superintendent.

Zackon died on April 20, 2011, while on a class trip with German language students to Switzerland. The memorial service was held nine days later.

Resident Cindy Smith discovered the expenditures, which included payments to a party supply store and a local catering service, during a recent Right-to-Know request filed with the district.

Smith said records show over $10,000 was spent on the memorial service, which was held in the district’s middle school auditorium. When asked to confirm this figure, superintendent Dr. Tracy S. Shank said the total was closer to $20,000.

“The $10,000 number does not include transportation services or overtime,” Shank said.

When board members were asked by Smith if the expenditures had been voted on and approved, board president Stephen S. Burns said it appeared they had not.

“I have to defer,” Burns said. “I don’t know the answer to the question. I don’t believe we voted on it.”

Smith said she found no record of the board having approved the expenditures, although Shank said the board did give its approval. She did not give the date of the board’s vote.

“The bottom line is money was paid for by this school district without coming before this board, without being presented in any minutes, without being ratified, without a motion being made,” Smith said. “Without this Right-to-Know request, this would be Oley’s dirty little secret, once again. How does this happen?”

Shank pointed out that the district had received between $6,000 and $7,000 in donations toward the memorial service, but did not dispute Smith when she said the balance was paid with taxpayer funds.

“The board had no right to outlay this money -- it wasn’t your money,” Smith said. “It’s money to be used for our children’s education, and this money did not go to the children.”

In other business, the board voted to not raise taxes above the index allowed by the state to balance its 2014-15 budget.

The board unanimously approved a resolution to opt out of applying for an Act 1 exception. This means the board will not increase taxes by more than 2.4 percent.

The board also approved two cooperative sponsorship sport agreements between the Oley and Brandywine Heights school districts.

The two co-ops are for high school boys volleyball, which begins this spring, and high school girls bowling, which begins with the 2014-15 school year.

The agreement is pending PIAA approval.

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