WESTFALL, PA — A final debate did not change any of the numbers and the Delaware Valley Board of Education, by a five to three vote with one member absent, gave its final approval for a $70.6 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.
Board members Jessica Decker, Pam Lutfy and Zachary Pierce were opposed; member Bob Goldsack did not attend the June 20 meeting.
The new budget contains the district’s first tax rate increase in seven years; the 2.3% hike will cause an increase of $66 in the tax on an average home assessed at $28,436. The tax on that property in the 2012-13 year was $2,868.24.
Prior to the vote, Dawn Bukaj, whose husband Michael Bukaj spoke against the tax increase last week, once again asked the board to reconsider the decision.
She said a variety of people would be hurt by the new cost increase that she did not believe was necessary. “If you can’t get rid of the 2.3%, perhaps it could be reduced to 1%,” she asked.
Bukaj said she realized the difficulty the board had in approving the new rate. “It’s tough to increase taxes, tougher to say ‘maybe I made mistake.’ Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” she said.
Bukaj said that the teacher (librarian), who last week spoke of the horrible computers in use now, would still be thrilled to get a percentage of new ones over several years. “You’ve made great progress. You just need to be a little more responsible,” she said.
Board president Bill Greenlaw responded to her comments. “You say we need to be responsible. Don’t sell us short. Nobody wants to raise taxes. Those who can’t afford a $60 increase could not afford $30.”
“We feel we’re doing the responsible thing, not like other districts that are closing buildings and laying off people.”
Speaking to the ongoing decrease in the growth of the district’s tax base, Greenlaw said, “Our not raising taxes did not keep people from leaving. There comes a time when a majority of us just don’t know how to do this any other way.”
Continuing, he said, “You moved here 15 years ago. Your house is worth more now. Nobody came here for six years saying ‘thanks for not raising taxes. My property is worth more.’”
Bukaj said her reference was not to his responsibility as a school board member. She said Delaware Valley was an exceptional district and the teachers deserve increased salaries, “but you can get it all done without a tax increase.”
Bukaj said other districts should look at Delaware Valley. “We need to fight for every teacher, student and dollar.”
Board member John Wroblewski said there had been no detail he had not considered during the long budget process and noted that the tax increase does not even cover the salary increase, which will be a recurring expense every year. “As things stand, in six years we will need $3.2 million in new revenues… I believe it would have been irresponsible to not raise taxes.”
Greenlaw again thanked Bukaj for her comments and said he hoped she would continue to come to the boards’ meetings.