Pattye Benson

Community Matters


TESD Looming Deficit Continues to Rule Decisions . . . Property Taxes to Increase + Middle School Latin & German to Disappear

Last night was T/E School Board’s monthly meeting. I attended the Board of Supervisors Meeting but I am pleased to provide Ray Clarke’s notes. In reading Ray’s notes, I understand that the school district has to make difficult decisions but it is disheartening to see that the district made the decision to phase out Latin in the middle school (as well as German).

I have mentioned it before but will repeat, our daughter had 12 years of Latin before going to college and then to medical school. Latin proved to be a significant help to Lyndsey with other languages, science courses undergraduate and later in medical school, In medical school, her background in Latin provided a ‘bonus’ in the way of help; a foundation that some of her fellow students lacked. As a first year resident, her background in Latin continues to assist her daily. Beyond a medical career, there is much to be gained in life lessons through the study of Latin. My fear is that if the school district phases Latin from Middle School, the interest and enrollment will continue to go down for Latin in the high school. This is unfortunate news.

An interesting aside, I received an email from someone outside of the school district who is thinking about relocating to our area. In researching the school district, he had found Community Matters and had several questions, including whether we had an Earned Income Tax and rate of property taxes. He also wanted to know the timeline for teacher contract negotiations . . . interesting.

Notes from Ray Clarke from the T/E School Board Meeting:

Two important votes at a very well-attended School Board meeting on Monday night. (Good result from all the district Communication activities). Again, 5 to 4 to pursue the request for Exceptions to enable a 4.2% property tax increase. Also, 7 to 2 (Bookstaber, Buraks) to phase out middle school Latin and German.

Public comment on the Exceptions broke down into the usual extremes. I was taken by a small business owner who brought the perspective of the commercial properties that pay 20% of the education bill in T/E. When a small business revenue is down, these inexorable tax increases have a very real impact on the bottom line. On the other side, a parent commented on the choices that everyone makes on whether to live in T/E, implying that those who don’t like the property taxes should move. If we think the district has a crisis now, what would be the state if all the seniors are forced out and replaced by school-aged families?

Generally all members of the School Board that did speak (all except Bruce, Motel) were against tax increases; the majority favored keeping options open while more data is gathered. This position will of course be untenable when we get to the final vote (Proposed Final: May 9th, then Final: June 13th). One data point I’m interested in: the February 14th banker report to the Finance Committee on the Fund Balance, borrowing rates and debt capacity – hope springs eternal! Kevin Mahoney made very thoughtful comments (well, I agree with them, anyway) that everyone would do well to watch on the replay.

Much positioning re the next TEEA contract; it will be interesting to see how the talk (eg: fix the contract, abolish the matrix) translates into action. Also notable in this regard: President Cruickshank implied that the pension increases are “going to Harrisburg” – well not really, they are part of the compensation of teachers here in T/Ewhich we need to take into account when negotiating the other parts.

It was helpful to have the discussion about the Latin and German programs. Students and parents had actually been voting with their course selections: enrollment has been on a downtrend to small levels. Rich Brake encouraged the administration to take all possible steps to encourage selection of these languages in the High School, as many do for Italian and Chinese now. I do like the idea that the current focus is to really push for fluency.

The Board went to great lengths to emphasize that it values all community comments, so let’s make sure that all perspectives are heard, and that those perspectives are based on actual data, not emotion!

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