For weeks, residents have asked the West York School Board how it can justify spending millions of dollars on building projects that include an indoor track and an underground tunnel for the football team while threatening to furlough teachers next year and saying it's in a budgetary crisis.
Tuesday night was no exception. During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Chris Sutton accused Superintendent Emilie Lonardi of bullying teachers by threatening furloughs for their not going along with what she wanted.
"We're not brain-dead (tea party members) who expect no tax increases," he said before adding that residents want the money generated from tax increases to be used to fund things that will improve the education and classroom experiences of the child, not extra, unnecessary frills for the athletics programs.
Throughout the entire budget process, Lonardi has cautioned the board and the citizens that the district is facing a financial shortfall that will result in furloughing teachers next
year -- probably between 10 and 15 teachers across the district.
The budget: West York approved its budget at the meeting, balancing the $49.34 million budget by using nearly $3 million from its fund balance.
The budget includes a 2.2 percent tax increase for the 2013-14 school year, raising taxes from 20.2281 mills to 20.6731 mills. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, so the budget means a tax increase of $44.50 for the owner of a $100,000 home.
The 2.2 percent increase is the maximum allowed under the Act 1 index. The index is set by the state and limits how much districts can raise taxes.
According to a press release provided by the district, the general fund balance is decreasing at a rate of about $3 million per year. At that rate, the fund will be depleted no later than the 2015-16 school year.
In an effort to stave that off as long as possible, the district plans to make deep cuts "to departmental budgets, (and impose) teacher furloughs and reductions in other staff," according to the press release.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the board announced it had negotiated an employment agreement with its confidential employees -- instructional advisers, deans of students and others -- for a five-year compensation plan. The plan includes no changes to the existing benefit structure, but does include pay increases of 1.6 percent the first year, 1.7 percent for the second and third years, and 1.8 percent for the fourth and fifth years.
-- Reach Lauren McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org.