Cocalico School Board rolls with leadership shifts

By on June 27, 2016
Incoming Superintendent Dr. Ella Musser with Cocalico School Board President Allen Dissinger at the June 20 meeting of the board. Photo by Kimberly Marselas.

Incoming Superintendent Dr. Ella Musser with Cocalico School Board President Allen Dissinger at the June 20 meeting of the board. Photo by Kimberly Marselas.

Incoming Cocalico School District Superintendent Dr. Ella Musser took the reins of her first school board meeting Monday, filling in for a vacationing Superintendent Dr. Bruce Sensenig.

Musser officially begins her new job on July 1. Much of the board action was connected to the logistics of ushering a new district leader.

The board appointed Musser its open records officer, civil rights officer, and coordinator of the Americans with Disabilities Act programs. Musser was also given permission to sign all state Department of Education documents on behalf of Cocalico schools.

As the shuffling of administrators continues, the board also gave truancy powers to new Adamstown Elementary Principal Denise Logue and Cocalico High School Assistant Principal Scott Bennetch. They join other school-level administrators in being able to initiate proceedings with magisterial district judges.

The board also approved $8,324 in previously budgeted work on the district’s main office, where the mail room is being renovated to accommodate more employees.

“The central office is going through a lot of reorganization right now,” Musser said. “Hopefully by July, everyone will be ready to roll.”

In other action Monday, the board gave final approval to its 2106-17 budget, which includes no tax increase. The final version includes some adjustments to estimated revenues, but no additional spending.

Business Manager Sherri Stull said the district made the changes based on final state funding for 2015-16, which included an increase of $196,880 for basic education funding and a bump of $51,998 for special education funding. Stull said the district anticipates flat funding for 2016-17.

Real estate tax receipts were lowered about $66,000 due to a business being reassessed, but realty transfer taxes are expected to jump by another $25,000 due to what Stull described as an upswing in the real estate market.

Property taxes will remain at 22.82 mills, with a homestead tax credit of $182.56 per qualifying property.

Though the $57.9 million spending plan will result in a deficit, the board will use about $5 million from its reserves to make up the difference.

The district has a fund balance of more than $18.4 million. The board voted Monday to commit much of that money to future uses, including $11 million to pay for the district’s state-mandated retirement contributions; $1 million for health care costs; and $1.42 million for technology. Stull said the district would next year begin paying for its student and laptop leases &tstr; $400,000 a year &tstr; out of the committed technology funds. Stull said Tuesday that another $3.5 million will be used to pay off a bond early, actually saving the district about $100,000.

“This is a good example of why districts need healthy fund balances to finance the new school years,” Stull wrote in an e-mail. “The reserves can disappear pretty quickly.”

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