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Bermudian proposes 4.7 percent tax hike

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The Bermudian Springs school board approved a preliminary budget for 2022-23 that includes a potential tax increase of 4.7 percent, the maximum allowed under the state’s Act 1 limitations. The millage rate would move from 12.4656 to 13.0514.

The board unanimously agreed to the preliminary budget, and voted 7-2 on the potential tax increase. Board members Jennifer Goldhahn and Travis Mathna voted against the proposed increase.

Board President Michael Wool said nothing is set in stone. “Again, remember, this is not our final budget,” he said. “This is just setting our preliminary. At this time what we’re saying is our budget will not exceed the Act 1 index but could come in under.”

To help meet the target of $18,771,398 in local revenue, the proposal included these taxes:

  • Real estate – 13.0514 mills
  • Act 679 per capita $5
  • Act 511 per capita $5
  • Act 511 earned income tax 1.2%
  • Act 511 real estate transfer 0.5%
  • Act 511 amusement 5%

The board also approved on a 6-3 vote signing another year-long contract with Brooke Say, the district’s solicitor through Stock and Leader. Board Assistant Secretary Mary Kemper, Goldhahn, and Mathna voted against the approval.

The board unanimously approved entering a contract with TherAbilities for speech and occupational therapy and with Ellen Nelson for school psychologist services, both on an as-needed basis. The board also unanimously agreed to buy a single student space at Yellow Breeches Educational Center for $30,856.

Three people spoke during the time for public comment, with two bringing up the ongoing discussion to increase transparency.

One parent said she appreciated efforts to create a syllabus for classes so parents can be up-to-date on what their child will be learning in the classroom, adding that she thought other parents would also be pleased with it.

The second parent felt uncomfortable with a discussion her child’s class had on communism during a citizenship class. The parent said the teacher voiced “pros” of communism, and while the instructor did open the floor to students to voice opposing points, the bell rang before they had the opportunity to speak.

The parent said she volunteered to speak about her thoughts on it based on her travel experiences, including in Yugoslavia and Hong Kong. While she did obtain a syllabus, she said she didn’t see the word “communism” mentioned in it.

She asked that the schools keep it simple.

“What we’re concerned about is that there are principles being taught to our kids that are not in line with our family values at home,” she said. “So sticking to the basics of math and science, historical literature and history. Let’s just leave some of these perspectives that we’re seeing all the time in media every day that’s coming out– let’s just leave them at home.”

Jennifer Zerfing, a former board member, listed teachers she appreciated. She also commented on the citizenship class as her son was in the same class but had a different experience.

“We had a very interesting discussion on communism and politics in general, and interestingly enough, after that class my son doubled down on his Republican-held views that may or may not be the same as mine and that’s fine… But I thought it was interesting that having a student in the same class kind of had exactly a different takeaway,” Zerfing said. “He felt that he was given a very good example of why communism isn’t what he would want for his country. I just thought that was interesting how two different kids can come from the same lesson and get a different takeaway.”

Goldhahn took a moment to thank Dr. Shannon Myers, the district’s assistant superintendent, for her help in creating a template for class syllabi as part of the effort to increase transparency.

“I just wanted to publicly say to Dr. Myers: Thank you for your hard work with the syllabus and I think we can move forward and go with the syllabus,” Goldhahn said.

Myers gave credit to the teachers.

“They’re the ones who provided input,” Myers said. “The format itself was easy for me. I’m looking forward to moving forward and getting something consistent in place for everyone.”

Other business

Ruth Griffie was unanimously re-elected as the board’s treasurer.

The board approved the hiring of Joshua Korb as its next director of innovation. Korb will replace Kheila Dunkerly following her resignation.

The board also approved the hire of several other individuals, including 11 summer custodians and 22 positions for Summer Experiences 2022 (STEAM Camp, Camp K and Literacy Camp.)

It approved the resignation of Sonja Brunner, director of special education, effective June 8.

Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss congratulated Myers for receiving the 2022 Wanda McDaniel Award from the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA). According to the website for PASA, the award is given to “an aspiring female administrator who shows evidence of great leadership potential.”

Hotchkiss said he nominated Myers for the award. She will receive it at an awards banquet.

Myers announced that United Way of Adams County chose Bermudian Springs to receive the 2022 health award in recognition of its contributions to the Bag the Bounty program. Myers said the district will be formally recognized during an awards ceremony on June 8.

Hotchkiss noted that academic and athletic awards will be given next week and that graduation will be held soon. He encouraged the community to attend an event.

“It’s one of the best times to be in a school district,” he said. “So stop by campus, see an activity, come to a concert. Our staff has done an amazing job to prepare our athletes, and our non-athletes and our band and choral students, and really, it’s a great time to kind of celebrate the gifted kids we have.”

The board will hold a caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 13 and a regular board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14. Meetings are held in the auditorium of Bermudian Springs High School and are posted online to the district’s YouTube channel.

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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.

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