Tax hike looms: Teachers continue protest of proposed cuts

By on May 18, 2016

LR20160407_WarwickLogoWith a tax increase of 2.9 percent on the horizon for Warwick School District taxpayers, the district is looking at every opportunity to cut costs.

More than 20 Warwick School District teachers attended Tuesday evening’s school board meeting to plead with board members to not let those cuts impact the English and language arts education of students in middle and high schools.

The dilemma is this: two English teachers are retiring from Warwick Middle School. A policy to save money and not replace retiring teachers means that the teachers may not be replaced, leaving the language arts program two teachers short.

A solution proposed earlier this month is to reduce the English language arts program by consolidating courses in the middle school. This was met with protest by English teachers, as well as other teachers, at the middle school and high school.

One option is to reduce the two-period English language arts classes to one period of English and one period of world language for upper level students. Lower level students would still have two periods of English.

Many of the teachers feel this would negatively impact students.

On Tuesday, Joan Bohan, a high school English teacher, called on the 18th century British poet Alexander Pope for his words of wisdom. As Bohan told the school board, Pope was known to say that a little learning is a dangerous thing. Pope encouraged intensive, meaningful and deliberate scholarship.

“The English language department at the middle school is the bedrock of English study in the high school. I fear negative repercussions if we do not heed his (Pope’s) advice,” said Bohan. “Please look elsewhere to cut costs.”

Brenda Penny, another high school English teacher, shared Bohan’s concerns. She said she felt sadness and frustration that the middle school English program could be reduced. Since 1981, the number of English teachers has increased only slightly, while the number of students has increased at a higher rate. In 1981, there were 12 English teachers for 1,069 students. Now there are 14 English teachers for some 1,300 students, she reported.

“Teaching English is time-intensive. It takes me 45 minutes to grade one student’s research paper. I am not complaining; that’s my job,” she pointed out.

The state considers English to be vitally important, she added. Keystone testing counts English two times.

“Students will be at a disadvantage if the two teachers are not replaced. This affects thousands of students,” Penny said, adding that reducing the English program is “a thought I just cannot fathom.”

Teachers at the meeting applauded both Penny and Bohan as well as several other English teachers, a French teacher, an agriculture teacher, and a retired physics teacher.

There were no comments by the school board members or administrators.

The challenge of trimming the budget while not negatively impacting students’ education was made even clearer when the board approved the final proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year.

The $71,253,678 proposal calls for a tax increase of 2.9 percent, which is within Warwick’s adjusted index as adopted in the opt-out resolution. The final budget will be up for adoption at the board’s June 21 meeting.

Budget expenses are being projected at $71,253,678, while revenue is at $67,755,851. That leaves a possible budget deficit of $3,497,827. The school district has a fund balance of $10,846,994, which could be used to cover the deficit, leaving a fund balance of $7,349,167.

“While the proposed final budget shows a current deficit of $3.5 million, I fully expect that number to be materially less between now and the final adopted budget,” school district business manager Nathan Wertsch stated.

The current millage is 20.1627, and the proposed millage of 20.7474 represents a 2.9 percent increase. That means the average assessed home value of $146,600 would translate to a tax increase of $85.72.

“The district is still looking at all the budget considerations that were provided at the May 3 meeting, which will lower the current budgeted deficit by the time the final budget is presented in June,” Wertsch said. “And the district will be able to cover the remaining deficit with fund balance.”

In personnel matters, the board approved the election of Sarah Bromirski as a library assistant at Warwick High School, Steve Moore as an assistant girls soccer coach for the high school, Maria Tivoli as an assistant girls soccer coach for the high school, and Holly Allen as a science fair advisor at Warwick Middle School.

They approved the implementation of the new K-6 Grammar Curriculum Pilot, with textbooks “Simple Solutions. Bright Ideas” and “Easy Grammar.” They also OKed a request for the adoption of the new K-2 Personal Social Counseling Curriculum – Safe and Unsafe Touch to be implemented at the elementary level during the 2016-2017 school year.

Michael Landis was re-elected as treasurer for the Warwick School Board.

The board approved an overnight field trip for high school students to compete in the Pennsylvania Envirothon State Competition at Susquehanna University on May 24-25, after the team won the county competition (see related article in this week’s school section, page A14).

Student board representative Abigael Weit attended her second-to-last meeting and gave her report of student activities. The graduating senior has served two terms as student representative, and welcomed Connor Wentworth, a Warwick High School junior, who will be stepping into her shoes in the fall.

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers the Warwick School Board beat for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

3 Comments

  1. Bob Fitz

    May 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Is the Lititz Record able to obtain and publish information pertaining to Districtt-level positions and programs?
    1. Comparison of WSD District-level positions to that of
    several other Lancaster County SD’s with very similar
    demographics
    2. Publication and comparison of pay by position,
    number of people employed by position, etc.
    3. Listing of so-called “resume-builder” programs
    initiated by WSD personnel in the interests of
    advancing their degrees, salaries, prompt ability, while
    impacting the education of the students and teaching
    methodologies utilized by the actual teachers.
    4. Is there a line-item budget for WSD available to the
    public for review (I.e., not simply rolled into high-level
    categories. Where’s the detail that makes up the
    budget?)
    5. Also would like to see a comparison of District-level
    benefit packages compared to other comparable
    county school districts as well as to the benefits
    provided to our teachers.

    As it’s the personnel at the District level that are “driving the bus”, we need to ensure that their positions and salaries are driven by results. If it comes down to eliminating teachers and courses – which directly impacts the students – or eliminating District-level positions, “resume-building” initiatives, etc.; I’ll personally vote on the side of that which is most beneficial to the students.

    Before the Warwick School Board ratifies the proposed tax hike, the community needs proof that it is truly required. The requested information would go a long way in alleviating those concerns.

    • editor

      May 20, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      We’ll look into this, Bob. Thank you.

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