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The budget in the Daniel Boone Area School District continues to be the $5 million question, as a group of parents and students pleaded Monday with the school board to save kindergarten, sports programs and other potential cuts from the chopping block.
The board approved two weeks ago posting a preliminary balanced budget with the maximum tax increase allowed of 1.26 mills (with the use of two exceptions through Act 1 of 2006), using $1.4 million from the fund balance, a $2.6 million expenditure reduction by eliminating kindergarten and all extracurricular activities including sports and marching band, eliminating two school buses, and furloughing 40 professional staff, 28 full time. The cuts are needed to close a $5 million gap between costs and revenues for next year.
No official board action will be taken on any of these measures until June 24, prior to the state’s June 30 final budget deadline.
Richard Martino, Douglassville, president of the Daniel Boone Taxpayer Activists (DBTA), said the district’s current millage rate of 28.96 mills is too high and senior citizens can’t pay anything more.
“You need to live within your means,” said Martino, adding that the board may need to eliminate music or sports to balance the $5 million deficit.
“I have the same feelings about sports, music and clubs, but you need to realize what we can’t afford,” said David Pool, Douglassville, and vice chairman of DBTA. “Maybe we can’t afford everything we want.”
A 1.26 tax levy would increase the millage rate from 28.96 mills to 30.22 and raise $1.25 million.
Annual tax bills on a property assessed at $100,000 would increase from $2,896 to $3,022.
The board said Jan. 14 that it will ask the public at the May 21 primary election through a referendum question if they support raising taxes in order to keep kindergarten, music, sports and clubs.
“Your referendum may pass - I don’t think it will,” said Martino, “but what about the people who can’t pay the tax increase?”
More than a dozen students and parents pleaded with the school board last night to save all of those programs, all of which, they said, have allowed them to become well-rounded students.
School Board President Andrew Basile said he is working on contingency plans in the event the referendum doesn’t pass.
He said that includes continued negotiations with all of the district’s contractual partners, finding new revenue sources and new ways to cut expenses.
“We’re working our way through the budget to find revenue and cut expenses to keep all the programs,” said Basile.
Superintendent Dr. Gary L. Otto said the sports program could not be altered while it remains under the PIAA umbrella.
If the district abandons its sports program entirely, students may participate in other districts’ sports programs.
Eva Stone, E. 9th Street, Birdsboro, said her child, who attends Birdsboro Christian Preschool, is eager to enter kindergarten in the Daniel Boone School District and asked the board to make a decision soon so she and other moms of preschoolers can stop looking around for a suitable replacement.
“This is heavy on the families,” said Stone.
Marie Anders, of Boyertown Pike, said not offering kindergarten is wrong on many different levels.
“Not every family can pay for private kindergarten,” said Anders. “The need for kindergarten doesn’t go away with budget issues. Other alternatives must be considered - this is not the answer.”
A middle school student said her life turned around when she joined the softball team in seventh grade and the cross-country and track teams in eighth grade.
“Sports give a sense of belonging in the teen years, can help with depression, and provides a common goal and interest for students, and motivation for good grades. My grades were affected because I didn’t fit in. The school should be for the students - before other alternatives are taken. Let the excellence of Boone athletics continue,” the student said.
In other business:
The board unanimously voted to deny exonerating Armorcast of $86,000 in unpaid property taxes.
Member Robert D. McLaughlin was absent from the meeting.
“I’m not in any way in favor of this,” said member Walter P. Sheehan. “I could see forgetting it one year, but there are people being thrown out of their homes for not paying in two years.”
Attorney Steven Marshall, representing Meco Demolition, Inc., Bensalem, which demolished the Armorcast building in Birdsboro, asked the board on Jan. 14 to approve exoneration.
Marshall said the delinquent taxes were a five-year oversight, but without exoneration by February, the county would proceed with a tax sale of the property, thereby preventing the owner from proceeding with property redevelopment.
Members said the tax abatement program for the property - the Keystone Opportunity Zone - expires on the property this year.