Gettysburg Area School District (GASD) board members expressed concern Monday evening about the 1.2 percent tax increase Superintendent Jason Perrin said was needed to keep the district in the black.
Perrin said his team had reduced still another $1.2 million in spending while not affecting student learning and that the proposed 2021-2022 budget was only about $128,000 greater than the 2020-2021 budget.
Perrin’s proposed budget was approved by all board members with the exception of Amy Beth Hodges, who voted no.
“I do believe this is completely inappropriate to have a tax increase or even a proposed tax increase. I look to my right, I look to my left and I see the administration here and not one of you has gone without a paycheck throughout this whole process. We have a community…and there are people who are still suffering and hopefully recovering from what has happened. A crisis may not have hit home for your home but it has for many that I represent,” said Hodges.
Board member Sylvan Hershey said he also preferred a zero percent tax increase. Hershey said he had passed eight budgets in his years as a New Jersey school supervisor and that he appreciated the time and effort Perrin and the administration had spent getting costs down without impacting students.
“I think it’s time for us as a board to ask the administration to look at the five-year plan to see if there are areas we can cut back on,” said Hershey. “I would be embarrassed to go out to the community and let them know that we are putting up a tax increase when they’ve gone through a lot worse than many of us have.”
Perrin said he preferred small tax increases every year to avoid large ones in the future, and that his proposed tax increases had been modest, between .75 percent and 1.25 percent. GASD did not raise taxes last year.
The board will discuss the proposed budget again at its May 17 meeting and plans to approve the final budget on June 7.
The board also discussed how best to spend the $4.4 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that is available this year to the district.
Among the proposals considered were a $200,000 automated system that would provide swipe card entry to all rooms in the high school. High school principal Jeremy Lusk said the cards would provide better security but board president Kenneth Hassinger questioned the need for it.
Another proposal considered was a $390,000 addition to the high school HVAC system that would filter pathogens from the school’s air.
The board asked for more specifics about the ESSER proposals and the budget and Perrin said he would provide that at the next meeting.
During the public comment period, community member Bob Stilwell said he believed the GASD budget was “bloated.” Stillwell said he was part of a statewide initiative to eliminate property taxes.
School board candidate Michele Smyers asked the board to carefully consider the need for the HVAC filtration system at the high school. “What’s the rating of the filters? Who changes the filters? How often are they being changed? Will 32 fans be enough?” she asked.
The next meeting of the school board will be on May 17 at 7:00 p.m.