2011-06-30 / Front Page

So. Fulton Decides To Raise Taxes

Discusses “biomass” system that would heat high school with wood chips
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

After battling back and forth last month on the topic of real estate tax rates, the Southern Fulton School Board met behind closed doors for an hour and a half before announcing its final decision.

Having talked privately regarding personnel matters, the board reconvened at 10:27 p.m. to adopt a budget totalling $10,311,589 in revenue and expenditures. The approved amount was $50,000 less than what was proposed on the Tuesday, June 21, meeting agenda.

In a follow-up motion by Mark Mosemann and Donald Whiteside, the board went on to set property taxes at a new level of 23.3613 mills. Additional taxes enacted through the motion remain unchanged and include Section 679 and Act 511 percapita taxes at $5; earned income and real estate transfer taxes at 1 percent; and penalties at the maximum level of 10 percent.

Board members Dwight Bard and Timothy Hull voted against the measure during a 5-2 roll-call vote. Having left earlier in the evening due to a prior work obligation, fellow board member Danny Crouse stated he was opposed to any increase in taxes. In addition, Pat Bard was unable to attend the monthly meeting.

Superintendent Kendra Trail told the “News” the .2313 property tax increase will raise an average homeowners tax bill by $9.42. Increases witnessed in the district, as well as other neighboring school districts, were primarily linked to benefits for all employees such as health insurance and retirement. According to Trail, to help reduce expenditures, the school board previously agreed to furlough two positions; eliminate the dean of students position at both the high school and elementary facilities; cancel Saturday school; and reduce supplies.

Former board member and concerned citizen Edgar Yates publicly approached the board and administration prior to their announcement. Yates urged the board to start at the top of the chain and consider every position offered at the district before making a decision. “I can probably name several positions that could be removed to save money,” he said. “I just hope the board does recognize this and think of the economy we have in this county right now. Unemployment as of yesterday is 14.3 percent. We’ve only sold two houses in the southern Fulton area recently.”

“I would appreciate it if every board member sits down and takes a very close look at what they are doing before they raise taxes. You’re going to have a lot of problems in the community,” Yates added.

Board President Kenny Wuertenberg went on to tell those on hand at the meeting it would be an additional 20 minutes until the board was able to vote on the 2011 Homestead and Farmstead Exclusion Resolution. Information was needed from business manager Deb Schetrompf in order for the board to render a decision.

The board eventually unanimously adopted the resolution, which will reduce tax bills of eligible participants by $178.48 per homestead/farmstead.

In other financial matters, the board adopted the earned income tax resolution and agreed to relocate any additional, unassigned fund balance on June 30 to a committed fund balance. That amount will be determined upon completion of the fiscal year audit for the 2010-11 school year and will be used for future payment of bond principal, interest payment, health insurance increases and PSERS retirement rate increases.

Payment of a premium totalling $61,505 was authorized to the Strickler Agency for a commercial package, workers’ compensation, educator’s legal liability and commercial umbrella and auto. An additional $2,200 proposal from Strickler’s was accepted for student accident and athletic insurance, which stipulates a $100 primary excess plan and $1 million maximum benefit over a two-year period.

Custodial supplies tallying $21,053,27 will be purchased in combination from Calico, AGF, Central Poly, Hilyard and Wagners. The supplies were awarded following a proposal/bid process. Furthermore, a bid for paper supplies was accepted from Contract Paper Group in the amount of $9,422.

In accordance with bid specifications, Barry Stanley is slated to purchase the high school’s paint booth at a price of $752.99.

Personnel

Under the category of personnel, the board hired Lauryn Carnes as the newest school psychologist, with services to be shared on a 50-50 basis with the Central Fulton School District. Carnes will receive a starting salary of $50,000.

Dr. Tara Scheck, Dr. Phillip Breen and/or Tri-State Community

Health Center were authorized to serve as school doctor at a rate of $8 per student physical during the 2011-12 school year.

Letters of resignation were received from varsity baseball coach Andrew Pepple and technology education instructor Andrew Brown. Pepple’s resignation was retroactive to the conclusion of the 2010-11 school year, and Brown’s resignation is effective August 9. The administration was given permission to begin advertising for the tech-ed position.

Extracurricular coaches approved as recommended by the district’s athletic director Kent Hendershot were girls elementary basketball coach Joe Hollenshead, assistant junior high volleyball coach Trudy Mellott and junior high girls assistant basketball coach Stephanie Mills. In approving the motion, the board discussed past practices such as offering positions in-house and public advertising.

Pending the submission of necessary paperwork Lucinda Lynch and Elizabeth Yocum will be permitted to serve as substitute nurses, while Lindsay Yorke, Richard Calhoun, Melissa Biondo, Brandon Ickes, Amanda Christmas, Laura Frei and Amanda Crouse will serve in the capacity of substitute teachers.

A brief discussion was held in connection with the position of district solicitor, which is currently held by Andrews and Beard. The board flip-flopped last month on whether the job for the upcoming school year should be awarded to the current firm or Robin Binder Heath. They returned to the issue last Tuesday with President Wuertenberg announcing his dissenting vote was not based on his traditional vote but because of past practice regarding process. Wuertenberg questioned what will happen the next time a topic is repeatedly brought before the board.

On a 6-1 roll-call vote, with Wuertenberg dissenting, the board agreed to again hire Andrews and Bard as their solicitor for 2011-12. The company will offer its services at an hourly rate for general services and $155 for special counsel/negotiations.

Occupational therapy services during 2011-12 will be obtained through Tuscarora Intermediate Unit #11. Cost will be based on the number of students requiring services. Furthermore, Extended Families and Learning Lamp will be serving as providers of alternative education.

Policy

The first reading of a total of 16 policies was approved. The policies range in topic from tobacco use and service animals in school to emergency preparedness and public attendance at school events. The board went on to look at four policies that they are proposing be deleted from the policy manual. The policies delve into pupils’ relations with law enforcement agencies and disqualification by reason of health for administrators, professional employees and support staff.

Building and grounds

The girls varsity basketball team will be conducting a basketball camp in the high school gymnasium between July 5 and July 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

A preliminary memorandum proposing the use of wood chips as a means of heating the high school was reviewed. The lifespan of a “biomass” system is between 30 and 40 years and could range in overall cost of $1 million to $1.4 million. Grant money and fuel oil savings could result in savings of $472,000 to more than $800,000, noted the superintendent, who added it is currently unknown if the expenditure would be considered through the PlanCon process.

Board member Mosemann suggested the overall price could be artificially inflated due to the possible availability of grant funding and questioned the lack of efficiency numbers in the proposal. He also asked where wood chips will be found in the area. Wuertenberg noted all wood chips are not created equal as some contain biodegradable substances like leaves. He questioned how those substances would affect the overall heating process.

Building and grounds supervisor Mike Shaw stated hardwoods without debris and bark would be best suited for a biomass system. He pointed out agreements could be penned with local lumber companies to ensure product availability and delivery.

Wuertenberg countered a lumber company could in turn control the price of chips needed by the district. He concluded, however, any alternative to heating oil is a good thing.

The superintendent was instructed to contact a product engineer and manufacturer in order to request their attendance at the board’s next meeting.

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