Bermudian talks taxes; honors band members who visited state capitol

The Bermudian Springs school board discussed a possible tax increase and setting up a comprehensive planning committee during two meetings this week.

The board held a caucus meeting on Monday followed by a regular board meeting on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, business manager Justin Peart offered the board a glimpse at its possible financial future if the board adds a 2.8% tax increase, a 5.6% increase, or opts to add no increase.

Even if the board approves a tax increase at the Act One index of 5.6% the district may face a deficit, according to Peart. A three-year projection shows the district experiencing a budget shortfall of $2,506,168 in 2024-25, a deficit of $3,499,889 in 2025-26, and a shortfall of $4,351,429 in 2026-27.

Should the board opt for no increase, Peart foresees a deficit of $5,166,753 by 2026-27.

Peart did have some good news. Since he had last presented the figures to the board in March, there was an increase of $676,739 in the budget as a result of decreasing expenditures and a boost in revenue.

The budgets could still improve.

“But I will emphasize, this is with information that I have right now,” Peart said. “And I have stressed throughout the whole project that I am conservative when I am doing my estimates because I’d much rather be getting good news at the end of the day than saying the exact opposite and, ‘Now what do you want to do? We’re in a hole and need to do something drastic.’”

Peart said planning is difficult without having exact figures from the state.

“So if the increase in state funding that Gov. (Josh) Shapiro has proposed actually goes through in June, that obviously will all make these numbers different,” Peart added. “But again, what is in these figures now is what we have received through 2022-23.”

Peart said that when the board votes on its preliminary budget in May, it can approve a tax increase at the Act One index of 5.6%. After that, the board will be able to approve a lower rate for the final budget, but it will not be able to go higher than whatever rate it approves during the preliminary budget vote.

Dr. Shannon Myers, assistant superintendent for the district, provided an update on the district’s comprehensive planning process.

The district is still in the early part of phase one. According to the slide Myers presented, phase one will see the district: “Establish a clear and shared focus amongst stakeholders. Identify internal and external stakeholders to take part in the planning process.”

Myers said administration would like to complete the first phase by the end of summer and a stakeholder group is still being organized. Myers hopes the list of committee members will be ready for board approval by May.

During the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, the board approved Matthew Nelson and Jennifer Goldhahn as members of the comprehensive planning committee.

Middle school band performances

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Shanna Danielson, director of the 7th and 8th-grade band, told the board about the band’s recent performance at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building.

Danielson said her band was among fewer than 25 instrumental ensembles selected to play.

Danielson said she learned about the selection near the beginning of the school year.

“We had been looking forward to it all year and these kids worked super hard,” Danielson said.

While on the trip, the children were able to meet with Pennsylvania Rep. Torren Ecker.

The band has section leaders who assist Danielson.

One section leader, Audrey Stambaugh, was unable to attend the meeting but shared her thoughts in a paragraph for Danielson to read to the board.

“The way the room of people reacted to the sound of our harmonies echoing through the seemingly endless space is unforgettable,” Stambaugh wrote. “As we played, more people continued to gather on the floor and the balcony, with joy in their eyes and smiles on their faces. That’s what music does to people. That’s what being able to perform for broad audiences does for middle schoolers like us. These opportunities allow us to share a piece of beauty and unity with the public, acquire life experience, and discover ourselves.”

Percussion leader Samantha Boyer said she enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Ecker about music education.

“At one point during the performance, I even got to speak with him about Music in Our Schools Month and what it meant to me,” Boyer said.

The Bermudian Springs Middle School spring band concert will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4 in the high school auditorium.

During the meeting, the board accepted a $1,000 donation from the Bermudian Springs Youth Basketball Association.

The board will hold a board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 9 in the new middle school.

A ribbon-cutting will be held in the new courtyard at 6 p.m. prior to the meeting.

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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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