LASD Raises Taxes and Creates Library Book Policy | Local News

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The Littlestown Area School District (LASD) board was busy Monday raising taxes and restricting student access to some library books.

The board voted 7-2 to pass a budget that includes a 1% tax hike.

Spending for the 2022-23 school year is budgeted at $37,374,353, an increase of 1.68% over the current year’s spending plan.

Of the increase of $620,993, the tax burden will be $174,000 more than the current year and, according to Superintendent Chris Bigger, an increase of 1%.

The actual effect for a taxpayer, Bigger said, “is $13 per 100,000 of the property’s assessed value.”

“The budget process has been long and surgical this year,” Bigger said. To arrive at this minimum increase, the district cut staff and programs by $400,000, which Bigger said was achieved “primarily through attrition and furlough.”

The newly passed budget “will provide some support staff with longevity bonuses” to help retain staff. In the current year, the district was able to raise rates for the lowest paid employees from $9 an hour to $11 an hour to “prepare for increases in minimum wage,” Bigger said. .

In what he called a “30,000 foot snapshot” of the school district, Bigger said testing reveals “limited learning loss” in Littlestown due to pandemic disruptions. He touched on plans for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER), federal funds available to local schools. The overall use of these funds will be as follows: learning support, 30%; mental health support, 26%; and 44% to reduce cuts to existing programs.

Bigger also touched on the facilities review, noting that the district has more square footage than it needs. The combination of college and high school is an option under study. The costs of what is needed to do this vary, and after developing high estimates, a potential project is back in committee discussions. Bigger said “internal discussions among staff have concluded that the establishment of the college must be abandoned” for the consolidation to work.

Putting district spending in perspective, Bigger cited LASD as “fourth out of six districts” locally in education spending and local tax burden and 420 out of 500 in spending per pupil in the Commonwealth. He said good planning is essential for smooth transitions on the horizon.

A new “opt-in” policy adopted by the board will require students to “receive parental approval before viewing library books (print or digital) identified in the American Library’s top 100 most challenged books.” Association (ALA), effective at the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

Parents will be able to indicate their intention to join by means of a form distributed at the beginning of the school year. According to Bigger, these are the books that have received the most objections across the country since 1999. Council member Yancy Unger, who chaired the meeting, noted that the list is cumulative and has more than 250 titles. According to the ALA website, the most recent list includes books by Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, and Anne Frank, in addition to the Bible.

After the meeting, Bigger also explained that the new policy only refers to library resources that are not on the schedule.

“The district has for years offered parents who object to a school resource the option to opt out of that assigned resource and have their child receive an alternative resource instead,” he said.

Board member Nikki Kenny questioned the unclear billing for the softball field batting cage replacement, and the board filed the action until its cost is clarified.

In the proposed appointment of two new athletic coaches, she also asked “whether the district’s attrition strategy of leaving vacancies unfilled applied to such cases.”

The appointments were made after it was clarified that the positions fill vacancies in active sports programs.

Kenny also questioned whether school administrators intended to make the pilot pre-kindergarten program permanent, wondering if it was “the camel’s nose under the tent to build a permanent program of preschool?

Bigger clarified that the program is not permanent, the pilot is funded outside of the budget, is capped at 40 children and will help “measure the success of learning” for children “who do not have a school. kindergarten or are identified as at risk”.

After discussion, the pilot program was adopted despite Kenny’s opposition.

Multiple public comments ostensibly took aim at the cost of future changes to school buildings and tax burdens and called on the board to “reduce” plans and use “an eraser, not just a sharp pencil”.

Donald Danneman asked council “how much do you think this community can afford” since “most of the growth is retirement housing”?

Janel Ressler echoed her remarks from previous meetings complaining about disparities in the rules surrounding public comment and the board’s failure to comply with her request to remove certain books from the school library.

The council met again on August 8 in a working session.

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