By Bill Bates
Recently the Mount Ephraim Board Of Education proposed a 33 cents tax increase for the 2009-2010 school budget.
The school budget was defeated on April 21 by a large margin of 441 residents voting “no” and only 111 residents voting “yes.” This was believed to have been the largest budget defeat of the past 5 years as each has been shot down by the taxpayers.
After a school budget gets defeated it then goes before the local governing body; the Mount Ephraim Board of Commissioners (BOC); Mayor Joe Wolk, Commissioner Bruce Greenwald and Commissioner Andy Gilmore, who can recommend how much they would like to see cut from the proposed increase.
A special meeting was then held on Thursday, May 14 at 5:00 pm at the borough court room to hear public comment and to answer questions from the residents. Only about 12 residents were in attendance and the room was filled with mostly school teachers, support staff, school administrators and school board members.
Resident Dan Preziosi questioned “How was this meeting advertised and why was it being held at 5 pm when most taxpayers aren’t even home from work yet?” Mayor Wolk said that it was advertised in the Courier-Post Newspaper on Monday of that week and that the commissioners did not know why the meeting time of 5 pm was chosen. Mr. Preziosi further stated “I think that it is very unfair to those residents who work normal hours and weren’t given a fair opportunity to attend this meeting.” “I just wanted to let you know that I think you could have done a better job at advertising this meeting if you really wanted to hear input from the taxpayers.” “I do not like these sneaky tactics use are trying to pull” he further mumbled out loud at a later portion of the meeting after Mayor Wolk had finished answering a question from another resident who commented on the same issue.
Resident Theresa Ingram stated “What does this all mean to the taxpayers?” “What is the bottom line on the dollar amount as far as tax increases that would affect our pockets?”
Mayor Wolk directed the question to the borough auditor to answer the question as he is familiar with the exact breakdown of the figures.
The commissioners cut the school budget by $87,500 or by 5 cents from the proposed 33 cents. The revised budget is now at 28 cents per $100.00 of assessed value which means that the average taxpayer will see an increase of $274.00.
The combined school tax at $274.00 and municipal budget tax increase at $98.00 means that the average taxpayer will be paying a total of $372.00 more in property taxes.
The average home in the borough is assessed at $98,000.00 according to the borough auditor.
After the meeting a taxpayer who has lived in town for over 10 years agreed to speak only under anonymity stating “I am very disgusted and upset at the total tax increase that these commissioners are throwing onto our (the taxpayers) laps” “Mr. Preziosi is 100 correct.” “If the advertisement for the meeting was in the Courier-Post on Monday that means that it at least had to have been submitted on Friday.” “At the latest, the advertisement could have been up on the community message board on Kings Highway by the end of the day Monday.” “It disgusts me even more that one of their own (the borough) employees maintains the sign from week to week” she further added. “It is a shame that these commissioners have failed the residents that they serve and most of them do not even know it.”
Even the new computerized message board that the borough spent over $15,000 for recently that is maintained by the police department could have been utilized to advertise the meeting to give residents more notification of the meeting.
After the BOC adopted the 5 cent decrease, the Board of Education then met at 7 pm in the Kershaw School Media Center to adopt the revised school budget were 6 members voted “yes” including Darlene Alexander, Dominick Cipolone, Delores Ward, Patricia Blaylock, Jim Pacetti and Michael Gaglianone; 2 voted “no” which were Nicholas Salamone Jr. & Carl Ingram and 1 member, Rocco Vespe was absent. Only one member from the general public was in attendance for this public meeting.