Last night I attended the Pottstown School Board meeting to bring you the latest news about our school district. While there were no fireworks like the last meeting, a number of things were brought to light that are worth mentioning.
Tri-County Area Federal Credit Union presented a check to the Pottstown football program. It’s always gratifying to see local business and industry support our community. Paying it forward benefits everyone!
The spotlight was on Edgewood Elementary School last night. We were treated to a very nice 6 minute media presentation featuring students from Edgewood giving us a tour of the building. We were then treated to the writing award presentations, which are always awesome. Dr. Tuck was beaming with pride 🙂
Mr. Doug O’Dell and Mr. David Leinbach made a presentation to the board about the new economic development entity being created to facilitate the revitalization of Pottstown. Pottstown Area Industrial Development Corp. (PAID) is being restructured to become the single point of contact for the outside world. It is imperative for Pottstown to present a unified vision in order to move forward. Federal, state and local governments are looking for a strong consensus before handing over money. This has been sorely lacking where Pottstown has been concerned, until recently. The model for this new entity is based on what was done in Johnstown, PA and has been very successful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnstown,_Pennsylvania
The final draft of the memorandum of understanding was handed out to board members last night. They will have until the next meeting to read over the document and ask questions before voting to accept at the next meeting. Pottstown Borough Council unanimously voted to adopt the memorandum of understanding and move forward. There was a good showing of borough officials at the meeting.
Mr. O’Dell pointed out that this entity is not trying to usurp authority from borough council; the school board etc… but will act as a clearing house to vet projects. Each participating group will have representation. The representatives will carry information to and from their respective groups. Each group will decide if they will support any proposed projects.
A search for the new Executive Director will focus on candidates with regional or national credentials from outside the Pottstown area. This person will not be entrenched in local politics and hopefully bring new “outside the box” ideas which are desperately needed. PAID has $400,000 which will be used as seed money to pay the new director and cover any other associated start-up costs. PAID was chosen because it has a special tax status 501C3, which is not being given out anymore. This status enables PAID to collect public and private funds at the same time. This is extremely advantageous in raising money. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/501(c)
The target date to have a new Executive Director in place is 2011. This allows the remainder of 2010 to be used for the hiring process and further planning and development.
It is beyond obvious what Pottstown’s problems are. We need economic development yesterday. Politics will be put aside so that PAID can focus on large (regional) and small (local) projects. One example of a regional project is the restoration of passenger rail service to Pottstown. Mr. O’Dell feels this is still attainable and could be a reality by 2013/2014.
Editor’s note: I can not emphasize enough the importance of everyone getting onboard. Pottstown’s future hangs in the balance. We can not continue to operate with the “business as usual” mentality that has landed us in the mess we find ourselves. Things must change. If that means for the greater good some people may gain or lose power, so be it. What we have been doing is not working. Unless we come together now, put agendas and politics aside and do what is right for Pottstown, the future is abysmal!
Patrons were then allowed to make comments to the board.
Phil Thees cautioned the board to be very careful in regards to PAID. He is concerned that the board may lose their authority to run the school district. Editor’s note: see above paragraph! Mr. Thees also commented on the pension debacle and suggested that school districts ban together with a class action lawsuit against Harrisburg.
Jeff Leflar made a very good point about uncollected property taxes. For the years 2004-2008 there are still $1.3 million dollars worth of uncollected property tax. Basically a handful of absentee landlords are not paying their taxes on rental properties. He asked about property tax foreclosure as a means of collection.
Rob Morgan spoke about uncontested property reassessment and that the board should be more active in trying to put a halt to this practice.
Linda Adams stated she recently met with the borough and they are working jointly on these property tax issues.
Mrs. Zahora asked about the Superintendent search. Mr. Huss informed her that the board was going into Executive session right after the meeting to discuss this issue.
A discussion followed about property taxes. Mr. Hartman asked Mr. Kalis if we could pick and choose who to go after regarding unpaid property taxes i.e. not targeting people with legitimate problems but working on collecting taxes from the handful of absentee landlords. Mr. Kalis stated we can not pick and choose who to go after. Portnoff Law Associates has a 94% collection rate. 80% of the taxes are paid during the discount period. Portnoff Assoc. could provide more specific information as to what means they are taking to collect from the absentee landlords. It was suggested possibly looking at occupancy permits as a means of collection. If the taxes are not paid, a dwelling could not be rented. Evidently the school district does not have the power to enforce these means of collection. Mrs. Pargeon asked who has the power. The borough, the county etc…
Mr. Huss revealed his choice to head to Task Force. Mr. James Bush, retired Business Manager of the Pottstown School District has accepted “the call” from Mr. Huss. This choice seemed to please many as Mr. Bush is a highly regarded member of the Pottstown community and is considered to be impartial.
Dr. Sparagana revealed that Mr. Krem’s resignation is now official.
Mrs. Adams revealed that the pension crisis in Harrisburg will cost Pottstown taxpayers an additional $6 million dollars, at the current level, by the 2014/2015 school year. Mrs. Adams stated the financial audit results were received and PSD had a clean audit. There were no findings. PSD received a grant for 21st Century for $135,000.
Many people thanked Mr. Krem for his service to the Pottstown School District and wished him well in Wyomissing.