DALLAS TWP. — Why isn’t a tax increase of 1.5 percent enough? That’s what Dallas School Board member Patrick Musto asked his colleagues Monday after they voted down the budget — the first time.
Musto’s question followed an initial 5-4 no-vote on a $38.6 million proposed final budget for the 2018-19 school year, which contained a 1.5 percent mill rate increase, to 13.6338 mills. A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value.
“That 1.5 percent comes to $30 on a $150,000 household,” Musto said. “That 1.5 percent has a certain direction — that direction is to finance various projects that we are going to have such as the protective initiative to have a policeman in each school building, and also to help fund the new school, and monies for various children services such as stipends for trips and those sort of things.”
Board members Sherri Newell, Kristin Pitarra, Christine Swailes, Gary Youngblood and Susan Allen, who voted no on the motion, remained steadfast in their decision, insisting they wanted more information before making a decision.
Board members Edward Dudick, Kathy Wega, Larry Schuler and Musto voted to pass the proposed final budget.
“So, in essence, the 1.5 percent increase is exactly what the district needs at this point,” Musto said. “If there is another suggestion as far as a rate increase, I would like to hear it – especially from the no votes.”
The hiring of police officers was not discussed or approved by the board, Allen said.
On March 27, the finance committee sent out a report out to all board members with a recommendation to place a police officer in each of the district’s four schools at the additional cost of $180,000, Musto replied.
Dallas Township Police Officer Gina Kotowski currently splits her time between all four schools. The budgeted funding would allow the district to hire three more police officers, contracted for five years, Musto said.
“On April 9, we had another discussion where some board members felt it was premature to provide protective services for the children and another board member said there was not enough data,” Musto said. “However, I think Florida data and Maryland data speaks for itself.”
“Why isn’t 1.5 percent enough,” Musto asked.
Newell quickly clarified none of the board members stated the district needed more than the proposed increase, but wanted more time to examine the proposal.
“I voted no because of the lack of details on the report,” Youngblood added.
The report is provided by a business manager who “has more experience in the Dallas School District than I do,” Musto said.
Musto’s second request for a vote on the proposed final budget had a more substantial “no” result. The vote was 8-1 with Dudick, Wega and Schuler changing their votes to the no side, siding with Allen, Newell, Youngblood, Pitarra and Swailes.
The district is required by law to pass its proposed final budget by May 31 to have its final vote in June, according to Grant Palfey, the district’s business manager.
The Dallas School Board will vote on the proposed final budget at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 14, in the administration building.