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School Board Discusses Funding Western Center

Spring-Ford board members talk about being prepared for future capital projects.

The financial aspects of running the Western Montgomery County Career and Technology Center came up for discussion at Monday night's Spring-Ford school board meeting.

Last year's renovation of the Western Center was a "ten year fight," said board member Joseph Ciresi.

Several board members made comments that indicated they felt there should be a change in how the funding responsibility is apportioned.

Business manager Tim Anspach explained that the current by-laws require each school to pay a percentage of the funding for capital projects (such as renovations) according to the market value of their districts as well as the number of students using the school from that district.

"If you go on just market value, as you know, Spring-Ford has changed considerably since the by-laws were created in 1975," Anspach said.

Anspach said that in 1975 the market value was about 43 percent, and now it's closer to 60 percent.

However, Anspach said, in practice the apportionment goes by a different set of rules that govern operating budgets.

"We still paid a higher percentage than the other sending districts," said board member Mark Dehnert.

The timing of these discussions, according to Ciresi, is also a point of contention among the Joint Operating Committee.

"The argument's been made, why are we discussing this now when we just renovated the building?" Ciresi said. 

"Let's do it while everything's brand new now, come to some type of terms, so we can move [any capital] projects forward and not have the kids suffer like they have over the last seven to ten years," Ciresi said.

Multiple board members asked if there was any way the apportionment could be based solely on utilization.

Solicitor Mark Fitzgerald said that type of change would have to be implemented by changing the by-laws, which would have to pass a vote of all three sending districts.

"Is there any precedent that we [Spring-Ford] could get 51 percent of that vote and the other two districts get 49 percent?" Ciresi asked.

Fitzgerald said no, it would be governed strictly by the letter of the by-laws.

"The Upper Perk representative said they don't even want to talk about this, they like the funding mechanism that's in place," Ciresi said.

Board members Edward Dressler and Mark Dehnert concurred with the suggestion that the district's Joint Operations Committee representatives (Ciresi, Dressler and board member Dawn Heine) go back to the committee and suggest the percentages be set more in line with utilization.

"60 percent just isn't right," DiBello said. "If we have a convention and it's voted down, we know we tried to do right by the taxpayers."

"I think it's time to tell them, we'll take a majority of the vote, we pay the majority of the money," Ciresi said.

However, Ciresi said, he hopes that "we do have a real conversation about what's fair and equitable."

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