DANVILLE — Property owners in the Danville Area School District will pay 2.7 percent more in taxes in the coming school year, under the $42.7 million budget for 2019-2020 that the school board adopted on Wednesday night.

The budget is the same the board gave preliminary approval to last month, when district Business Manager Bobbi Ely said part of the tax increase was due to the district's commitment to the expansion of the Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School.

Property owners in Riverside and Rush Township in the Northumberland County portion of the district with homes assessed at $100,000 will pay $160 more in the fiscal year beginning July 1, while property owners in the Montour County portion of the district with a $100,000 assessment will pay $31 more.

District Business Manager Bobbi Ely said the reason for the difference is the different market and assessed values between the counties. The millage in both counties will increase 2.7 percent to 13.6534 mills, she said.

The budget represents a 4.73 percent increase in spending over the 2018-2019 budget, Ely said. 

The tax increase is the first in the district since the 2015-2016 year, when the board hiked taxes 1 percent, Ely said.

The preliminary budget includes about $7 million as the district's share of the vo-tech hybrid expansion plan, which has a projected cost of about $28.9 million, Ely said.


Raises, unauthorized survey

In a separate action, the board approved a 3 percent raise to the following non-bargaining employees: Karen Aungst, administrative assistant for curriculum and technology; Dana Earnest, administrative assistant for special education; Terri Faust, administrative assistant to the superintendent; Stephen Kalberer, psychologist; Beth Norman, administrative assistant for the business manager; Laura Renno, transportation coordinator; Donna Robbins, accounting assistant; Jan Buck, administrative assistant child accounting/receptionist, and Richard Wilson, assistant director of information technology. 

The board also heard from 2019 graduate Emily Salerno-Oswald, who conducted an unauthorized anonymous wellness survey of nearly 200 students and teachers before it was blocked on school Chromebooks.

Salerno-Oswald said Acting Superintendent Ricki Boyle previously denied her permission to conduct the survey "on the grounds of redundancy." She conducted it anyway.

Among her findings, 132, or 67 percent, of the 197 respondents said they felt "intense/stressed" in school.

Other questions related to whether students typically have time to eat breakfast (44.7 percent said no), how much sleep they get (32.5 percent said 7 hours), and what factors cause them to feel anxiety or depression at school (80.7 percent cited schoolwork overload). The survey revealed 14.9 percent of students considered harming themselves due to a school-related cause.

Salerno-Oswald's mother, Laura Oswald, read comments from one student who felt anxiety and depression but did not feel he or she had time to ask for help because of fearing missing schoolwork.

Board member Dawn Koons-Gill asked how the district could help the student if the comments were anonymous. Salerno-Oswald said she had a webpage where students could communicate with her. 

Former Montour County District Attorney George O. Wagner, who also had served as a state representative and school district solicitor in the past, urged the board to take time in finding a new superintendent, adding, "I urge you not to micromanage" whoever is hired.