School Board votes 7-2 for 2.9% tax increase

By on June 22, 2016

LR20160407_WarwickLogoThe final 2016-17 Warwick School District budget was approved on Tuesday.

Not everyone was happy about it, though, for a variety of reasons.

Several language arts teachers were concerned because three retiring middle school English teachers are not expected to be replaced. That means that the language arts program will have to function with fewer educators and possibly less class time.

A local senior citizen was worried that she cannot afford to pay her taxes because of the continuing increase in school district property taxes.

Two of the nine Warwick School Board members were also not pleased with the new budget, noting that, “We are just not satisfied with the package.”

Still, the 2016-17 Warwick School District budget was adopted, with board members Ben Sahd and Leslie Penkunas offering “nays” when the vote came up. The remaining seven board members — Timothy Quinn, Todd Rucci, Michael Landis, Millard Eppig Jr., Nelson Peters, Scott Shaub and Debra Wenger — voted in favor of the budget.

The newly adopted school district budget in the amount of $69,736,978 will require a tax increase of 0.5847 mills at a 2.9 percent increase. That sets the tax millage at 20.7474. A property with a median assessed value of $146,700 would have a tax increase of $85.72.

Earlier in June, Warwick business manager Nathan Wertsch had projected budget expenses at $69,908,113, while revenue was estimated at $68,249,244. The school district was able to trim costs by more than $171,000. That still leaves a deficit, which will have to come out of the school district’s fund balance of $10,846,994.

That may be workable now, but planners are concerned about the future, if that fund balance is dipped into for several years.

Then there were the English and language arts teachers, who feel it is a mistake to cut back on the language arts program at the middle school. In a letter signed by nine teachers, which was read at the beginning of the meeting, the teachers implored the school board to not adopt the budget.

“We ask you to reconsider,” said the letter, noting that the reduction of eighth grade class time in language arts would be a detriment to the students in their ability to meet the challenges of high school in reading, writing and research.

Even board members who voted in favor of the budget had some regret.

“I wish the taxes would be less,” said board member Nelson Peters, adding that the Warwick School District was required to adopt a budget, even though the state has not passed its budget.

Carol Buch of Lititz echoed that sentiment in her heartfelt plea for tax relief for senior citizens who are on a fixed or lower income. Buch, at 75, reported that she still works as a waitress to make ends meet. She lives in a modest duplex home and has worked hard all her life to buy her home and maintain it.

Steadily increasing costs means she cannot run her dryer, use her air conditioner, turn the heat up in winter, or go on vacation. With an income of less than $1,500 a month, she is worried that she will not be able to afford her $2,100 tax bill.

“I am afraid I will lose my home,” she said. “Why can’t you do something for senior citizens? Isn’t there a fairer way to do this?”

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.

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