Monday night’s lengthy Board of School Director’s meeting made one thing clear – unless something drastically changes, East Penn taxpayers are pretty much assured of a tax hike in the 2012-2013 school budget.
The Board defeated, by a 4-5 vote, a motion by Director Lynn Donches that would have directed the administration to prepare two versions of the proposed preliminary final budget for the board’s May 12 meeting – one with a zero percent tax hike and the other with the administration’s “real” recommendations, which could amount to as much as a 2.9 percent tax increase.
The motion, made by Donches and seconded by Director Julian Stolz, was also supported by Directors Rebecca Heid and Michael Policano. Directors Alan Earnshaw, Samuel Rhodes, Francee Fuller, Ken Bacher and Board President Charles Ballard voted against the measure.
The school board previously adopted a preliminary $120.5 million budget that included a 3.1 percent tax increase, but financial nipping and tucking done since then has brought the increase down to 2.9 percent. The current tax rate is 46.53 mils.
Donches’ motion came after Ballard asked the board if anyone wanted to give the administration direction on preparing the preliminary final budget for the May meeting. A lengthy and occasionally heated discussion kicked off from there.
Ultimately, the debate came down to whose job it is to recommend the nearly $2 million in cuts that would be needed to get the district to a budget that would freeze the tax rate in 2012-2013.
Earnshaw said that it’s “the job of a school director to set the direction for the district” and that those requesting a budget with no tax increase needed to give the administration some guidance on how to get there.
“If you think that there is $2 million in waste in there, tell them what parts of the budget you want them to look at. I suspect that if there was $2 million in waste in there, it would have been gone a long time ago. You are weaseling out to say it is someone else’s job to do that,” Earnshaw said.
Defending the motion, Stolz disagreed: “We are talking about less than 2 percent of the budget. I believe we could do that without cutting 25 teachers or the entire athletics department or the drama department. It’s not the school director’s job to count the meatballs. Let them count all the meatballs and show us what a zero percent budget would look like. It’s not my job to count the meatballs.”
The board will vote on the proposed preliminary final budget at the May 12 meeting. The final budget vote will happen in June.