locally owned since 1854

Why is Lower Dauphin trying to cut librarians?: Letter to the Editor

Posted 5/31/17

In an interview with abc27 on May 17, The Lower Dauphin School District director of community relations claimed, “You do the best with the resources you have before you go back to the taxpayers and …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Why is Lower Dauphin trying to cut librarians?: Letter to the Editor

Posted

In an interview with abc27 on May 17, The Lower Dauphin School District director of community relations claimed, “You do the best with the resources you have before you go back to the taxpayers and ask for more money.”

This statement was in response to a growing number of community members speaking out against reducing the number of certified librarians in the district, which is being proposed for the 2017-18 school year. The district is arguing that by eliminating the position of middle school librarian, it will free up the funds to increase technology and make a more modern space.

There are two issues I see with this. First, with this logic the district could eliminate math teachers if they invest in fancy calculators. Second, I had no indication that Lower Dauphin was under any sort of financial distress. So before making conclusions, I do what any good librarian does. I research.

As I began exploring the data to back up the district’s statement, I referenced several published documents from board meetings. I learned that both state and federal funding has increased, the employer rate for PSERS pension contributions is the lowest increase in five years, interest on investments increased 150 percent, contributions and donations from private sources are up 500 percent, and the district saw an increase in both property tax and earned income tax from growth in the area. So why the need to cut positions?

However, I understood that districts can’t rely on levels of federal and state funding, so I continued searching. Just weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released its updated financial reports for the 2015-16 school year. One of the biggest takeaways from this report is that school districts’ general fund balances top $4.4 billion and there seems to be a growing awareness of this issue. I was curious what LD’s contribution was to this amass of money.

In 2005-06, Lower Dauphin’s general fund balance (also known as a “rainy day fund”) was $3.9 million. Just 10 years later, the district is now sitting on a 528 percent balance increase, with a rainy-day fund of $21.1 million. $21.1 million! Of course, that sounds like a lot to me, but I was curious how it compared with other schools.

Fortunately, PennLive/The Patriot-News published a searchable database allowing readers to view a district’s fund balance in relation to its overall budget, so I was easily able to compare LD’s funds with other districts. In 2014-15, Lower Dauphin’s fund balance was 35.6 percent of its budget. Meanwhile, Derry Township was at 13.6 percent, Palmyra at 11.4 percent, and Elizabethtown at 10.9 percent. Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says it is “excessive” to maintain a fund balance greater than 20 percent of total expenditures.

In the abc27 interview, the spokesperson also claimed this measure would “put us on par with other districts.” However, the numbers put LD elsewhere. Let’s say that the district would want to be on par with neighboring districts in terms of its finances. Taking the average fund balance percentage of neighboring districts, Lower Dauphin would hold an 11.9 percent fund balance. This equates to $7,545,195, freeing up $13,554,805. That’s enough money to give every adult in the district a tax refund of $720. That’s enough money to pay for four years of tuition and fees at Millersville University for the entire graduating senior class. It’s enough money to pay the salary and benefits of a full-time certified librarian for the next 108 years.

So I ask the administrators and board members of Lower Dauphin: If you love libraries and librarians, and you want to be fiscally responsible to your taxpayers, why aren’t you?

Heather Lister

Hummelstown

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment