During their June 15 meeting, Boyertown school board approved the $112.7 million final budget for 2017-18 with a tax increase of 3.1 percent. The increase raises the millage rate by .75 for Berks and Montgomery, bringing each county’s rate to 24.27.
The School Board adopted a resolution that the district would not increase the tax rate by the more than the Act 1 Index allowance of 3.1 percent.
The budget passed by a board vote of 5-3. Board members Jill Dennin, Stephen Elsier, Donna Usavage, John Landino and Dave Lewis were in favor of the budget; Clay Breece, Christine Neiman, and Robert Caso voted against it.
Breece, in part, said he could not support the budget due to the lack of a strategic plan. “The plan is what we stick to, it is the guideline. It is the roadmap to success and a budget is a plan for success, and I don’t see that in this budget. I really don’t.” He added that without such a plan, people can expect taxes to go considerably higher in coming years. He also stated that blame for the deficit is being put on predictable issues such as pensions while the board fails to see its own shortfall.
“I think there was long-term thinking behind it,” said Elsier, adding how this year’s budget was tougher than others and believes things have been put in place that will be long-term fixes for the district.
Usavage, in response to Breece, said long-term strategic planning at public schools is difficult because of the changing boards. “As far as collaborative discussions, we’ve talked about this a lot. We all agreed that we had this deficit and I didn’t hear a lot of alternative ideas to come up with the kinds of savings that we needed to.” She said everyone has the ability to voice their opinions, if they haven’t than they haven’t; this budget is something they all agreed to.
Dennin began her comments by saying the district isn’t in the best place in regards to their budget but they’re in a better place than many other districts and she disagrees with the lack of long-term planning. “I think that this was a tough budget, but I do think that we worked collaboratively on it.” She said she was impressed with work sessions and the people from community spoke who passionately about issues. “In the end, the conversations that I’ve had with people in the community, they may not like some of it but they understand. This is a budget, in my opinion, for the long-term. It’s not just to get through this year. We’re starting to make tough choices to get through the long-term.” She said she will be supporting the budget because she believes it will go a long way to improving the educational outcomes of the students.
Caso commented on how these numbers existed in last year’s budget; he heard optimism then but doesn’t here it now. He also said it is naïve for anyone to think the building projects don’t affect the budget, adding how the district hasn’t bought new buildings but instead they’ve bought pieces of buildings.
Neiman said she won’t support budget for several reasons. She questioned the addition and cost of modular classrooms to avoid redistricting, the workload of Chief Financial Officer David Szablowski and the delegation of that work, the cost of Boyertown Essentials, and the Boyertown high school renovation project. She asked how many rooms does the school gain from the project and thinks it is wasteful spending.
Faidley said he could not immediately provide an answer for the number of classrooms added.
Neiman said she cannot and will not support the budget for those reasons.
John Landino spoke about the possible cuts that have been discussed in work sessions and what those cuts would mean for the district. He said if people that don’t understand what’s happening in the district are voting on things and recommending things without realizing the implications – cuts will happen. “Checking the box for a zero tax increase is not a strategic plan.” He concluded by saying it comes down to what’s valued in the community, such as programs and education. It’s not all about building projects.
As a part of the budget presentation, Szablowski explained how there are three ways to decrease a budget deficit: decrease expenditures, increase revenue, and use of fund balance The complete presentation and budget can be found at <https://www.boyertownasd.org>.