Daniel Boone school budget still undecided

With just weeks left to approve a final 2018-19 budget, the Daniel Boone School Board is still undecided on how it will balance a $1.48 million deficit.

The board had voted 8-1 on May 14 that it would balance the deficit (of $1.66 million) with the maximum tax increase of 3.2 percent that is allowed by the state’s Act 1 index.

That would increase the millage rate from 30.2 mills to 31.1664 mills, and increase tax bills by $96 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

“If someone makes a motion to increase to the index, I vote no,” said board President David Rathgeb, “but I would do a .6 mill increase.”

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“I’m going to vote no [to a maximum millage increase] because previous boards put us in this position,” said member Aaron Durso.

Alternatively, the board is considering using $1.48 million of its $5 million fund balance (district savings), to eliminate the deficit.

“What about the (projected) negative fund balance the next two years?” asked a board member.

“I was never a fan of zero percent tax increases, but not also of increases to the index,” said Rathgeb, adding, “maybe do .6 mills every year?”

The board has until June 30 to approve a final budget.

Member Michael Wolfe repeated his statement of May 14 that the district’s future should be determined by a voter referendum, particularly if the Daniel Boone Education Association requests higher teacher salaries.

The board and the teachers union are negotiating a new teacher contract.

Teacher salaries have remained flat for a number of years.

“At some point we won’t be able to tax ourselves out of the hole and we’ll need to go to referendum to pay for basic education,” said Wolfe.

The district’s projected revenue for 2018-19 has decreased by $343,000.

District expenses have been reduced to $58,426,261 with a cost reduction in the High School’s substitute teacher service.

The closure this month of the Birdsboro Elementary Center as a district building has reduced expenses by $461,000.

Renovations required to one day reopen the building are estimated at $1.9 million.

A $5 million bond to finance that project (and other capital projects) would incur additional debt service payments beginning in July 2019.

“I cannot fathom why a bond issue if there is no plan to reopen that building,” said member Jeffrey Scott.

“When I came on to the board, all I heard was the [renovation] money spent on this building [former Amity Primary Center], and now we’re doing the same thing.”

Wolfe proposed that the board add the $300,000 earmarked for new debt service payments to the $500,000 earmarked for capital projects.

Board consensus was to stabilize BEC and maintain it, but not invest additional money at this time.

“It’s good to stabilize BEC,” said member Julia Olafson, adding, “That is a good middle path. We would hear it from [residents] if we let an asset — that we’re not paying on — to deteriorate.”

The board has asked James R. Thompson, president of Thompson Associates Architects and Planners, Harrisburg, to present at the board’s June 11 meeting a phased BEC renovation plan.

Superintendent James P. Harris affirmed that the board would begin discussing in August staggered school starting times for the 2019-20 school year.

The focus of staggered starting times is to reduce transportation costs.

Harris said the district’s third annual Blazer Days, June 27 - 30, is the main fundraiser for district sports, clubs, and activities.

“This is their big fundraiser for uniforms, instead of selling candy bars,” said Harris.