School district talk turns to budgets and board member accountability

Attorney Clint Barkdoll weighs in on News Talk 103.7 FM

February 10 – With the Chambersburg School District unleashing a 3.4% mil last year, is there anything that can be done to roll that back? The Big Talk on the local-live morning radio show First News (7:11am on 103.7FM weekday mornings) featured a round table discussion on the topic with Pat Ryan, Michele Jansen, and Attorney Clint Barkdoll

Barkdoll said the school board can vote to return the millage. “That’s not unprecedented. Years ago in Waynesboro, the board gave back I think four or five mils.”

School board budgets run from July 1 to June 30, so the talks are coming.

“They very well could reduce the budget,” Barkdoll said. “They just got a big chunk of federal stimulus funds.” $2 billion in federal stimulus funds were received in Pennsylvania and that was disbursed to school districts based on population.

What’s troubling about the payments, according to Barkdoll is they were earmarked for “food service, technology upgrades, sanitation and cleaning supplies in buildings, summer and after school programs. None of that stuff is happening in a district that’s been closed all these months.”

Barkdoll said it will be interesting to see how the board will justify using that money.

Michele Jansen noted that one of the main reasons given for increasing the school board budget was because the district was afraid they wouldn’t get federal funding, but since that’s happened, she believes there’s “more than enough” and no need for the tax increase.

Pat Ryan urged listeners to contact their school board members to discuss the issue.

Talk then turned to Forbes Road School District, a small district in Fulton County that’s been closed to in-person learning since November.

Barkdoll made a point to note that Forbes Road School District had been opened from September to early November last year, and he wanted to correct the previous reporting.

Parents and citizens making an effort to reach out to school board members in Forbes Road to discuss the months-long remote learning have been met, mostly, with silence.

“These school board members are public officials,” Barkdoll said. “They are elected. Their contact information is public. Unfortunately, there’s no way to force them to respond. If you’re calling, writing, emailing a board member and they’re just not responding, it’s highly inappropriate, but it’s not technically illegal.”

With a primary election coming up in May, perhaps finding someone to run against these school board members could help the issue.

If a person wants to run or knows someone who wants to run, they will need to get a petition from the county election board or from the Department of State Election Bureau’s website.

“For a school board, it’s not that difficult. You only need 10 signatures of registered voters in your district,” Barkdoll said. “You can also sign your own petition. If you’re married and have children who are registered to vote, you might be able to get close to 10 names even in your own house.”

A person can also cross-file on school board petitions, which means a person can get signatures of both Republicans and Democrats, no matter how they, themselves, have filed politically. Their name will show up on both primary ballots.

Barkdoll warns there are deadlines. The petition period is open right now and they are due roughly in two weeks and should be turned in to the county election board. If a person gets the petition, gets the signatures and files, his or her name will show up on the May primary.