West Brandywine Township residents questioned Coatesville Area School District officials on three issues at the township board of supervisors meeting. The focus of the meeting surrounded questions on taxes, tax increment financing or TIF and the school police.
Dr. John Zaleski, Coatesville School board president and Donna Urban, school board vice president, attended the board of supervisors meeting for the quarterly update on school district businesses. These meetings have occurred since the proposed 24% tax increase in 2004 in an effort to keep district residents informed on a periodic basis. This was the first meeting since both Region 2 representatives were elected to their new positions. Cynthia Quinn did not attend.
Zaleski started the meeting with the good news that the school district is in better financial shape.
"The school district is now at an A-1 rating," Zaleski said.
According to Motley Fool.com, an investor educational website, "Bond ratings were developed as a way to indicate how financially stable the issuer of the bond really is -The higher the rating, the higher the quality of the bond. Serious bond investors want an "A" rating."
With the school district's finances now in order, Zaleski was clear he was not promising a tax reduction. Discussions have occurred with a tax reduction of .2 of one mil. The school board has not taken any vote on a tax reduction. Urban and Zaleski said the school board was divided into figuring out how much money to cut and would it be better for the public to cut taxes deeper at first knowing the taxes could creep up within a year of two or make an even more modest cut allowing the tax cut to run more smoothly over a longer timeframe.
Zaleski and Urban polled the audience. The resident result was almost unanimous to cut deeply the first year knowing that same rate would most likely need to be raised within a year or two of the initial tax cut said, "I know where my money is if it is in my own pocket," said resident Jack Conti stating, his preference for the deeper initial tax cut.
Resident Dr. John Vilcheck questioned Zaleski on the school district's commitment to tax increment financing with regard to the city's redevelopment. Vilcheck stressed he was against TIF for any residential redevelopment. Vilcheck asked with the changes going on within the City of Coatesville, was the school district TIF agreement being affected?
TIF is an economic development tool whose aim is to create a stronger and broader economic tax base by attracting private development and new businesses into a TIF district. Once a TIF map or district is created, land and current buildings real estate values are assessed. When the land is redeveloped, the real estate tax increases gained in the value for those buildings is returned to the city for 20 years to be put towards a project's infrastructure. After the 20-year TIF time frame, each entity, the city, the school district and the county would then receive their respective tax increases.
Zaleski said the TIF agreement had been completed and as far as he knew everything was to remain in place.
Many residents in West Brandywine Township were vehemently opposed to TIF including the board of supervisors who had passed a resolution against it for residential development. The board feared the surrounding municipalities would end up subsidizing the TIF district over the 20-year time period. Quinn, Urban and Zaleski had taken a lot of heat at the last quarterly West Brandywine Township/school board meeting in which the region three members had voted for TIF. Only Zaleski had opposed the residential TIF development.
Vilcheck also questioned the need for having a school police force when the local police departments are already within the community and should be ready to respond. Zaleski and Urban stated it was an issue the school district was continuing to review. Neither school board members nor the township board of supervisors knew how the current police response worked within the district.
Supervisor Joe Obernier called Corporal Dave Domblesky into the meeting and Domblesky stated the school police handled incidents during the school day and local law enforcement handled incidents after school hours. Domblesky stated he believed if the school district did away with their current force, he believed an additional police officer would be needed within West Brandywine to cover the schools. The board was not in agreement with that assessment. Domblesky is also the township police union representative.
Urban updated the township on school community changes, including curriculum. Urban also acknowledged the school district was awaiting final word on the Blue Ribbon Committee, which will aid the district in planning the district's future. The committee is evaluating each school district building and planning no changes, renovations or possible future building plans to meet the future school district needs.
The board of supervisors and school board members agreed to continue meeting in this fashion, but no firm date was selected for the joint meeting.