Impact of potential school board cuts uncertain for the Greencastle-Antrim community.

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

The Greencastle-Antrim School District school board is taking a hard look at how to operate with a balanced budget not only in 2012-13, but in the years following. The recession has meant less income from investments and reduced government funding. Skyrocketing mandated contributions to the public pension system for educational employees in the next several years is also scary. Already school district administration has trimmed expenses significantly, but on May 17 the board members are expected to indicate their positions on cutting major programs for 2013-14, when the district faces a $1.5 million deficit. The board meets at 6 p.m. in the middle school library.

The board had requested a list of possible cuts in its multi-year budget review. One suggestion April 19 by Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover was to move the teaching position of the environmental center director back into a middle school classroom. A later statement on the district website clarified that the board has no plans to close Tayamentasachta.

Other large items on the list were eliminating all extracurricular activities, including interscholastic sports, and band and choral groups; three teaching positions; MAP testing; aides; and to outsource services.

What if?

Since no school district in the area has yet eliminated student activities outside the academic day, there is no standard to measure the impact of such a move in Greencastle-Antrim. Some real estate experts offered cautious statements on the effects to future development or property sales.

Franklin County Area Development Corporation president Mike Ross said industries select a territory, often within a multi-state area, and the first priority is specific factors needed by the particular business. That includes location, infrastructure, labor force available at present and in the future, transportation costs and educational opportunities for the workforce at the high school and post secondary level.

Then communities are examined. Private companies transferring employees check out the school districts, and G-ASD presents itself very well, said Ross. It was a district of choice because of test scores and class size. The school system tied into the overall quality of life.

While the elimination of extracurriculars would be “disappointing,” Ross said it would not make a difference to the companies per se, just to where their employees chose to live. “They have plenty of other districts to choose from.”

Appraisers are uncertain how home values would be affected, since there was no community to use for comparison. One agent, who asked to remain anonymous, said buyers look at location, the condition of a home and the quality of its construction. Their emotions play a role in where they decide to settle. The school district was important in their evaluations.

Scott Palmer, a real estate agent with Jack Gaughen Realty, also could not define the impact of severe cuts within the school district. He expected a direct correlation to the out-of-town buyers, who now comprise only 20 percent of the traffic since the boom days of the mid-2000s. He thought it would be a deterrent to purchases, especially for the higher priced homes the transferred employees tended to purchase.

He acknowledged Greencastle-Antrim’s school system had an excellent reputation, which was an integral part of the entire community. Clients liked, in order, Greencastle’s proximity to Hagerstown and Chambersburg, the small town atmosphere, and the schools. The people did not base their decision strictly on test scores, but also on class size, extracurricular activities and positive programs for their children.

“These cuts would be a travesty because it would negatively affect the community,” said Palmer. “They would make Greencastle less attractive.”

As well, the fallout could be greater than in larger towns that adopted such cuts, he continued, because Greencastle was such a closely-knit community.

Taxes

Greencastle’s real estate property tax rate is now 97.9 mills. The school board is limited by Act 1 from raising taxes more than two mills for 2012-13. The board will adopt the final budget in June. It is projected to have revenues of $32,700,249 and expenditures of $33,151,082.

Tuscarora School District’s mill rate of 107.91 was raised by two mills Monday night, to 109.91. The final budget will also be voted on next month. Chambersburg’s 2011-12 rate was 92.757 and Waynesboro’s was 85.50. Each district has a unique tax base from which to levy.