Kindergarten and sports in Boone budget

The Daniel Boone School Board’s three hour budget meeting concluded Monday night with a unanimous vote approving kindergarten, sports, and extracurriculars back into the 2014-15 budget.

Assistant Superintendent Marybeth Torcia said Feb. 28 that the new kindergarten registration dates would be posted on the district’s website by March 3.

The board has not yet voted to include mid-day kindergarten transportation ($130,000 cost) or transportation to day care facilities ($30,000 cost).

Other budget items still on the table are elementary encores, elementary band, basic skills, and four Middle School positions.

Board member Larry Speed was absent from the meeting.

Interim Business Manager Kim Seldomridge presented the board with four different budget-balancing scenarios that included raising taxes, using fund balance money, and also closing the Birdsboro Elementary Center (BEC).

“Legally, we can’t look at BEC cost savings until June,” said Martino, adding, “I think we ought to focus on BEC as it is.”

Seldomridge’s calculation of $70,000 annual savings from closing BEC also included “realigning” students and staff to Monocacy Elementary Center (MEC) and Amity Elementary Center (AEC).

He recommended MEC as a primary center with all the district’s kindergarten through second grade students, and that AEC is changed back to an intermediate school with grades three through five.

The total annual savings from closing BEC and realigning MEC and AEC would be $627,000.

Acting Superintendent Dr. Patricia Sanker said the realignment would be a change in philosophy for the district, students, and their parents.

“There won’t be those individual neighborhood schools,” said Sanker. “They will all go through kindergarten to twelfth grade in one group, and it will be an entirely different way of how we deliver school in the Daniel Boone School District.”

Seldomridge said the district’s fund balance would increase to $4 million with the addition of 800,000 from the elimination of a doubled debt service payment in the preliminary budget, $330,000 in savings from a bond swap, as well as the realignment.

He said the capital reserves account would have nearly $1 million with the transfer of $400,000--$500,000 from debt service, which could fund one or two new boilers at BEC.

Board member and Finance Committee Chairman Andrew Basile suggested using $1 million of the $4 million fund balance to restore kindergarten ($391,000 cost), extracurriculars, and sports ($500,000 cost).

Seldomridge said a .725 millage increase (to 29.6868 mills) would increase the average tax bill by $86.81 and would yield about $700,000 additional revenue.

If the board chooses to not realign the elementary schools but keep kindergarten and sports, Seldomridge said the board would need to raise taxes to the index of 2.8 percent with a 1.15 millage increase ($137 additional annual property tax payment).

“This would be the most difficult scenario to sustain and maintain,” said Seldomridge, adding that without realigning, the district would have a $2.4 million deficit.

“This may not be popular, but I have no major concerns raising taxes,” said board member Tamara Twardowski. “The last couple of years, the budget has been balanced on the backs of the students. How far do you cut the kids? We’re supposed to be here for the kids. This may not be popular, but according to the school code, we’re responsible to the kids, not the tax payers.”

She added that the district should use its Act 1 retirement exception -- acquired as a result of the state’s pension funding crisis of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS).

Seldomridge said the district’s retirement costs will increase $1.3 million in 2014-15.

The retirement exception, combined with a tax increase to the index, would be a 3.97 percent tax increase and add 1.15 mills to the current 28.9618 millage rate, for a total of 30.1118 mills.

That would be an additional $137 property tax payment.

“The tax issue is a little premature,” said Basile, adding, “We have enough to fund kindergarten and sports [this year]. A tax increase has to be part of the discussion of long-term sustainability. I think taxes are a part of the revenue stream.”

“I would have no problem with a minor tax increase -- a minor one each year,” said member Suzanne Dungan.

Torchia said realigning the elementary schools would result in 11 sections of each grade and the buildings “would be packed,” but would not include the use of modular units.

“It won’t optimize the best learning with the larger class sizes (an increase from 21 to 25 students), and moving fifth grade to the Middle School won‘t save money,” said Torchia.

A public hearing to begin closing BEC is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on March 24.

The board is expected to vote in June on a motion to close the school.