Millersburg School Board questions $63K tuition bill

By Rob Wheary, Staff Writer •

MILLERSBURG – When the Millersburg Area School Board worked on their 2016-2017 budget, they tried to be fiscally responsible with their funds and stay within budget, cutting costs and furloughing teachers.
After learning of two different bills that will increase costs for the district, one that will see the district pay a $13,000 increase in a tuition, some board members expressed their displeasure about the state and federal government guidelines.

One item on the agenda at their Aug. 22 meeting was a new tuition agreement for a Millersburg Area School District student to receive special education services at the New Story school. After the budget was passed, district officials received notification that their tuition would increase from $280 to $350 a day. With a 180-day school year, Millersburg’s bill would be $63,000, an increase over the $50,400 the district paid last year.
In comparison, the new figure would provide the education of four or five children in regular classes.
Business Manager Cathy Artz said the student is listed as needing a high level of assistance for learning, and per state and federal guidelines to provide a free and appropriate education to all students, Millersburg has no choice in the matter.
Board member Donald Harris was the most vocal on the matter, asking if any kind of inquiry on the matter was done.
“Have we ever contacted anyone at the state level to make a complaint about us as a school having to do this?” Harris asked superintendent Thomas Haupt.
“As a school, no,” Haupt said. “Special education is a topic of conversation that comes up in superintendents’ meetings all the time.”
While respecting the fact that the decision has to be done for the education of the student, Harris hopes that some other organizations would take up the fight as well.
“I would also like to see this school board make some kind of dedicated response to the superintendents’ organization, and the Pennsylvania School Board Association, to complain about this. This is ridiculous.”
Following the discussion, the board voted 6-0 to approve the tuition agreement, with members Mark Rothermel, Scott Roadcap, Brett White, and Margaret Lebo, Harris and Ryan Novinger voting yes. Harris and Novinger in making their vote, said: “Reluctantly, yes.” Board Members Bruce Kance, Morgan Wagner and J. Bruce Walter were absent.
Along the same lines, school officials were informed over the summer the Geisinger Clinic would be increasing the cost of routine drug testing from $35 to $79.25 per test. Business manager Cathy Artz said the district would keep the same amount of money it’s budgeted for testing, and adapt their schedule. The service is used for random drug testing for students.
The motion for the laboratory services agreement was approved on a 6-0 vote.
Other motions approved at the meeting included:
— The board voted on a resolution to levy interim real estate taxes on 17 properties, five in Millersburg borough and 12 in Upper Paxton Township, based on increases in their assessed value resulting in new construction. The measure would raise $5,200 this year, and when at their full value of taxes next year, $15,000.
— Transportation contracts were approved for the coming school year, with transportation being provided by the David Schlegel Transportation Company. Costs for transportation are as follows: regular transportation consortium and for students of the Northern Dauphin Christian School, $1,401.46 per day not to exceed 181 days; vo-tech students to the Dauphin County Technical School, at a cost of $95.32 per day; Amish school transportation at a cost of $199.15 per day and a special van run at a cost of $25.50 per day.
— Three change orders for the district’s building project were approved totaling close to $3,000 were approved. Craig Zimmerman, building project manager, said that workers will be cleaning up the school this coming week to have it ready for the first day of school on Aug. 29.
— The 2016-2017 ambulance services agreement with the Millersburg Area Ambulance Association was approved, for a fee of $1,000.
— Resignations were approved for Karen Watts as a part-time learning support aide at Lenkerville Elementary School, Paul Everett as school security officer, Dr. David Ellis as district physician and Bethany Dearborn as a long-term substitute.
— Hired at Monday’s meeting were Christina Lahr, of Herndon, as a K-3 learning support teachers at Lenkerville Elementary School, Brandi Riland, of Millersburg as a day-to-day substitute for third-grade teacher Noelle Conrad, and Crystal Romberger, of Millersburg, as a part-time kindergarten aide at Lenkerville Elementary School. The board also approved two reassignments, several supplemental contracts, the academic support tutors, leave requests, school security personnel, and the list of substitutes.
— The list of bus drivers and bus stops and van routes for the 2016-2017 school year was approved.
— When approving the school handbooks, Donald Harris hoped that in the future, the board will get a chance to see the books for more than four days before coming to the meeting to approved them, not going only by the recommendation of the administration and solicitor.
— Several district policies were approved at the meeting, including policies for working periods for non-instructional employees, child abuse, public participation in board meetings, conflicts of interest and a policy to keep and administer doses of naloxone in the district. Naloxone is a new drug designed to reverse the overdose caused by an opioid drug, and the district will be provided the drug in both intranasal and auto-injector doses.

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