Tax Increase Affecting Schools in Lancaster

As public school employee pension costs and a weak economy strike school districts in the area, many wonder if Penn Manor is next to eliminate staff positions.

The Lampeter-Strasburg School District school board recently announced a plan to reduce the hours of eight teaching positions for next year, in part because of budget concerns.

The School District of Lancaster proposed a plan this week which will eliminate nearly 40 staff positions next year, and administrators there said they may not be done cutting.

Millersville University announced this week, possible layoffs of staff in an attempt to cut costs because they stand to lose more than $3 million in stimulus funds in the coming year.

One new teacher at Penn Manor, Lisa Mayo, said she didn’t like hearing that news from neighboring school districts.

“I’m the last person hired in my department, so if they went by seniority, I’d be cut first. So yes, I’m fearful of losing my job,” said Mayo, who was newly hired for Penn Manor High School’s English Department for the 2009-10 school year.

But Penn Manor’s Superintendent, Dr. Michael Leichliter, said his district plans to reduce spending through other means than putting current employees out of work.

“Positions can be eliminated through attrition (natural reduction through retirement or resignation) or through furlough. If a district furloughs staff members then it must comply with certain regulations in the Pennsylvania School Code (State laws that govern public schools in PA.)” said Dr. Michael Leichliter, superintendent of Penn Manor School District.

Superintendent Dr. Leichliter

According to Leichliter, school property taxes will likely increase by 3.46% this year.  The district, he said, is looking into ways they can keep taxes down in light of soaring pension costs in the coming years.

“In the next few years we will experience a large increase in our mandated pension costs along with other costs like normal price increases, rising utility costs, and other mandated personnel increases. The school will need to look at each and every expense and weigh what is truly essential,”said Leichliter.

“… We can borrow money for items like school construction through the financing of bonds. We cannot spend more than we have, though, for normal operating costs,” Leichliter said.

In order to prepare Penn Manor for the increase of tax, the school may offer advertisements and endorsements to the private sector, similar to Hempfield and Manheim Township.

“We’re willing to take sponsors and advertise,” said Leichliter. “Anything we can do to increase revenue.”

“Overall, the district is in excellent financial condition at the present time,” Leichliter stated in confidence.

By Mike Bouder and Gabby Myers