Boone band still on table

The Daniel Boone School District budget may be $300,000 under budget -- or it may not be -- but elementary band is still listed as one measure to balance a budget deficit.

Andrew Basile, finance committee chairman, surprised the audience at the board’s May 12 Committee of the Whole meeting when he stated that the district is “still $300,000 under budget.”

He asked that new Business Manager Loren Small confirm the budget numbers for the next Finance Committee meeting on May 22.

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That meeting will start at 6:45 p.m. and will be held at the district’s new offices, at the former Amity Primary Center.

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, the board’s voting meeting is scheduled for May 19 and a preliminary budget must be approved by May 31. Board members said the budget number discrepancy is the result of changing Business Department leadership. Leadership began to change last June with the resignation of Business Manager Danielle Penza.

Dennis Younkin, who had recently retired from his position as Director of Finance and Support Services at the York Suburban School District, York County, provided 2014-15 budget information at last September’s Finance Committee meeting.

He had been hired on an interim basis after Penza’s resignation and was working with Assistant Business Manager Mark Boyer, who resigned in March.

Kim Seldomridge spoke at the board’s Nov. 13 meeting as the district’s new interim business manager from the Pennsylvania Association of School Board Associations (PASBO). Seldomridge left the district in April upon the March 24 unanimous approval of new Business Manager Loren Small for one year.

The district’s preliminary budget still includes expenditure cuts of elementary band, some professional staff, as well as a 3.97 percent tax increase to the index (an additional 1.15 mills to the current 28.9618 millage rate), and the use of undetermined fund balance money, in order to balance the budget.

Elementary band costs the district approximately $187,426 a year.

Representatives of the Community School of Music and the Arts, Reading, told the school board on April 28 that they will work with the district to provide a fee-based elementary band program at the Birdsboro and Amity elementary centers.

The Community School’s two-day a week, after-school band program (from 3:30 to 5 p.m.), would cost each student $16 a week, but financial assistance would be available.

Madison Albright, a fifth grader at Monocacy Elementary Center and a clarinet player, asked the board to keep elementary band for her younger siblings.

“I play the clarinet and I really enjoy it. Were you at my fifth grade concert last week? Cutting band will have an effect on my little brother and sister. They won’t get the same benefits I’ve had -- from remembering my instrument, learning perseverance, [and] it’s taught me confidence. Mrs. Bowman has taught me to be a better student. You don’t understand the importance of music education and it also tells me you don’t listen.”

Albright said members of the public have asked the board to not cut band -- that it is an important program to keep.

Her mother, Beverly, then spoke to the board.

“I’m [also] here in support of elementary band being put back in the budget,” said Albright, adding that she wrote a personal e-mail to each board member citing the many advantages of elementary band: fine motor skills, memory enhancement.

“You’re not listening to the people that voted you into office and stated that we want you to leave elementary band in the budget,” said Abright.

Amy Hicks, president of the Daniel Boone Education Association, said the board also isn’t listening to the pleas of the public that are asking for a tax increase to save programs.

“We are trying to do our best service to the community,” said board member Carol Beitz, adding, “the maximum tax increase we can do is included in the budget.”

Hicks said despite a tax increase included in the 2013-14 budget, the board voted it down, a $700,000 revenue loss to the district.

“The state believes that reading, math, and science are more important than band -- we don‘t have too many choices,” said board member Tamara D. Twardowski of the possible need to eliminate elementary band.

Glenn Bucci, Douglassville, said the Daniel Boone Middle School’s recent second place awards to the Chorus and Band “was only accomplished by a strong elementary band program.”