Daniel Boone School Board approves budget -- no tax increase

The Daniel Boone School Board approved by a 6-3 vote on June 23 the 2014-15 budget of $53,633,344 with no tax increase.

Taxes will remain at 28.9618 mills.

Properties assessed at $100,000 will pay $2,896 in property taxes.

All programs also remain at all district buildings.

The budget was balanced with the use of $330,000 of bond swap revenue, $100,000 in Title I grant funds for a basic reading skills salary (and a new day instead of after-school program), as well as $1.1 million of the district’s $3.4 million fund balance, and no tax increase. Board members David Rathgeb, Tamara Twardowski, and Michael Wolfe opposed the motion to approve the budget without a tax increase.

“We need to make sure we are doing fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers -- what are we willing to give up going forward?” asked Wolfe prior to the vote -- if taxes are not increased for 2014-15.

“We’re going to be doing drastic program cuts or drastic tax increases, or both, next year,” said Wolfe, adding, “I don’t think I can support this budget.”

Twardowski said she is concerned about the domino effect of not raising taxes for this budget: not having that $1 million additional revenue that will compound annually, as well as the lack of new money for capital projects.

She received e-mails from people asking her to vote against a tax increase.“I also received e-mails from people who said they would be willing to pay a little more to ensure we have programs for our children,” said Twardowski.

“If you look at those numbers (on the five-year budget plan), we’re hoping for a $600,000 grant,” said Rathgeb. “I’m at the point I’m uncomfortable cutting programs -- and that is where we’ll be next year. In the past, wrong decisions were made and now we have those numbers, and the right decisions can be made. There will be a large tax increase next year.”

Martino said the board could raise $1 million next year (2015-16) with a tax increase to its Act 1 index and the use of its retirement exception.

He said that will put money back into the district’s fund balance and restore it to $2 million.

“And, the following year, that doesn’t go away and we can raise taxes again,” said Martino.

“You have the ability to raise taxes $1 million each year to keep a $2 million fund balance and not cut programs -- why raise this year?” asked Martino.

Board member Andrew Basile said the board has an obligation to spend the fund balance money instead of raising taxes.

“Continuing to raise taxes will have a negative impact in the community,” said Basile.

Board member Carol Beitz said she hadn’t heard a good reason to raise taxes.

“I said I would not raise taxes and I stand by that,” said board member Connor Kurtz, adding, “we will have the opportunity to do it in the future.”

Board member Brian Doty, who agreed in May the need for a tax increase, said Monday night that it would be “good if we could hold off raising taxes.”

“I’m glad we have the five-year plan, but a lot of it is conjecture -- we can only predict,” said Martino, “but in the coming years I think we’re safe -- to be able to raise taxes.”The board unanimously approved the appointment of Edward Isselmann, as assistant principal at the Birdsboro Elementary Center, effective July 1, at $72,000. District Superintendent Marybeth Torchia said Isselmann has served in the district as an elementary teacher and was recently transferred to the High School as an English teacher.

The board also unanimously approved Andrew German as the High School’s new Band/Music Director at $57,870, effective Sept. 2.

“I see nothing but good things for this school district,” said Martino, recapping for the board and public the school year that included seating four new members (Beitz, Rathgeb, Martino, and Suzanne Dungan), and then replacing three members: Monica Hamill, Robert D. McLaughlin, and Suzanne Dungan.

“The board started out a little rough -- learning to work together, new members, but we started this year with a $3.6 million deficit,” said Martino. “We now have no budget deficit, no program cuts, no tax increase, and at this time, no vacancies.”