The Bermudian Springs school board approved its tentative 2021-22 budget during its meeting on Tuesday evening.
The approved budget included $33,177,119 in expenses and $31,241,993 in revenue. A tentative real estate tax rate of 4.1 percent or 12.9766 mills was included.
The tax rates approved Monday cannot go up from the approved amount but could still be lowered before the final budget is approved in June.
“Last school budget, we were only in the pandemic like three or four months and I was not happy that we had to go to the maximum, so I voted against it,” Treasurer Ruth Griffie said. “Now we’re in the pandemic a year and people are actually really hurting, and I can’t justify voting– even though this is only a temporary vote right now– I can’t justify voting (for a) 4.1% (index) tonight.”
There was minor confusion when Griffie was told that she voted for the increase when she voted for the revenues and expenditures. Griffie said she was unaware that approving the first meant approving the second.
Board President Michael Wool clarified that if the tax rate is set lower than is necessary to reach the necessary revenues, fund balance money could be used to bridge the gap.
Wool said that he hopes that there is more information about the state budget expectations and what the district can expect to receive by the time the board adopts its final budget in June.
“Of course, the piece that continues to concern me is that every year I’ve been on the board, I’ve seen the amount of state support dwindle,” Wool said. “Public education is supposed to be funded at around roughly 50 percent by the state, but yet we get 38 percent, as was demonstrated last night as we reviewed our numbers. That obviously puts the burden back on communities, and communities that don’t have a large tax base with a lot of businesses, it’s usually that much more difficult. That definitely makes it hard to figure out exactly making final decisions, and certainly the further out you make those final decisions from the real information, the more difficult it is.”
Wool suggested approving the 4.1% index to give the board room to set its budget as necessary, adding that he hoped to lower the rate from that by the time the final budget is approved.
The board voted unanimously to approve the tentative budget.
The school board voted to approve Griffie as its new treasurer.
During the time for public comment, Jennifer Goldhahn announced her candidacy for the school board. She raised concerns about a perceived lack of “open communication and collaboration,” transparency and “quality education” within the district.
“A survey asking parents for their feedback about which learning model was the best fit for their students and family was ignored,” Goldhahn said. “You asked for our feedback only to turn around and ignore us, followed by unanswered emails about the survey, its results or not implementing the results because you chose to listen to the experts, ignoring the parents, taxpayers and stakeholders you’re supposed to be representing.”
Goldhahn said that the shortage of in-person classroom time negatively affected students’ education. She also expressed dissatisfaction with tax increases in the district.
“If past behavior of ignoring parents, taxpayers, stakeholders, emails and public pleas during school board meetings is an indicator of future performance, you deserve to have your seat challenged,” she said.
Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss congratulated Assistant Superintendent Jon Fox for his candidacy for the position of superintendent of Susquenita School District.
Fox was named as a finalist candidate in a letter from Susquenita School Board President Phillip Lehman to the Susquenita community.
Susquenita held its superintendent meeting on May 3, where it was announced that Fox has toured the district’s schools. Fox answered several questions during the Susquenita meeting.
Bermudian Springs will hold its next regular board meeting at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 15.
Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.
You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.