Cocalico cuts tax hike Increase drops from 6.71 to 3.88 percent

By on June 19, 2013



, Staff Writer

Cocalico’s original tax hike was whittled down since proposed in March and a 3.88 percent increase was passed along with the budget at the June 17 meeting.

For residents, that means an increase of about $60.81 a year in school taxes.

The board’s largest decrease to bring down the hike was on the payroll segment of the budget, which went from 3.01 to 2.45 percent.

"In 2010, we had 256 teachers now we have 234 and we lost other support roles along the way. We cut back in those payrolls year after year," explained Superintendent Bruce Sensenig. "And when you have a reduction in payroll you have a reduction in required benefits."

Sensenig offered reasons for the forced increase, citing state cuts, reassessment of properties and low funding for programs and special education.

"I don’t want to point fingers," explained Sensenig. "I’m just trying to explain legitimate reasons why it’s hard to hold the line on the budget. It’s getting to the point where you can’t cut back anymore and keep running the program."

Despite the lack of funding, Sensenig commended the board and Cocalico School District for continuing to succeed in a time where funding is a constant issue.

"We continue to educate the students in light of all this and offer programs and experiences that are truly meeting the needs and interests of our students and community," said Sensenig.

The total budget for the 2013-2014 school year is $48.4 million. Budget expenditures reached upwards of $52 million, leaving the school with about a $3.4 million deficit, which will be paid with the fund balance.

"There is a $3 million deficit from our budget so we’re eating up any money that we have put aside just to make these budgets work," commented board member Michael Messner. "First of all, we did a great job," added Messner. "Second of all, I am very disappointed at the state. They hold us accountable saying that privatizing the liquor is going to help education. They’re holding our school districts hostage and that is not right."

"Cocalico has had a long history of fiscal responsibility in our audit reports and we’re in a better condition than many districts," commented Reverend Kevin Eshelman, vice president of the board. "But pretty much we’re all in trouble. We can’t continue the way things are but there’s really no answers coming from our state government."

The board passed the newly revised budget, but the vote was not unanimous, as board member Steve Richardson voted not to pass the budget due to the increase.

"Once again, we tried to minimalize the impact it has on our constituents. It’s tossed out that it’s only another $60.81 a year," said Richardson. "While Sherri and the staff have done a commendable job we still continue to pound our taxpayers unmercifully and at some point it has to stop."

The board also approved the 2013 annual tax levy, which increases millage from 21.32 to 21.76 percent, which is an increase of .44 mil, explained secretary Sherri Stull.

Projects and expenditures were estimated at about $983,346 for the Capitol Project Fund and a balance was estimated at $7,906,856 for next year. Those costs include a new tractor and truck for maintenance and Adamstown Elementary’s new roof and HVAC system.

Cocalico personnel also saw an increase of 15 percent in its worker’s compensation due to claim increase and market conditions.

"The decrease of issues dropped dramatically. It’s the cost of a few claims that have hurt us severely," explained Allen Dissinger, board president.

"Whether it’s a school district or manufacturing plant, everybody is seeing significant increase in their insurance premiums," explained Marty Gerhart, who represents Harding Yost Insurance Associates, who advises Cocalico High School.

The board renewal premiums – despite the inevitable increase – will remain with PSBA and Cincinnati Insurance as their carriers.

The board also approved the following for the 2013-2014 school year:

May 20 minutes;

Treasurer’s report, which expenditures totaled $4.6 million, leaving an ending balance of $9.6 million;

The Capital Project Fund account register for $123,226;

Budgetary transfers for the 2012-2013 school year;

The business manager to make any adjusting transfers required by the auditors;

Authorizing issuance of individual Procurement cards, which will reduce economic burdens, conserve resources and reduce costs;

2013-2014 Homestead and Farmstead Exclusion Resolution;

Commitment of June 30, 2013 fund balance;

36-month renewal of PPL and MetEd contracts with Direct Energy;

Official list of graduating seniors;

Sale and disposition of "Everyday Mathematics" instruction materials;

The resignation of Susan White and Michelle Harris;

Megan Lamm as a long-term substitute for health and physical education;

Lauren Davis as an elementary teacher;

Wendy Leisey, Kathy Longenecker, Tammy Harting, Jean Bard and Ronald Worline as support staff;

Doctors and dentists;

Sport event workers; and

Volunteer coaches

In Sensenig’s closing remarks, he took a few minutes to thank David Davies, who after 34 years, is retiring from the District and sat in on his last meeting on Monday.

"We need to thank him for giving 34 years of dedicated service," said Sensenig. "We appreciate all that he has done and he will truly be missed in Cocalico."

"He was a teacher, administrator … it’s unbelievable all the jobs we threw at him," added Dissinger. "He did exceptional work, he gave 150 percent."

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