Earl Miller and Peggy Dell are seeking re-election in Region III, hoping to hold onto seats they've been occupying for 29 and nine years, respectively.
They're joined on the ballot by Carroll Tignall Jr., a retired senior financial and audit systems manager, and regular attendee of the district's school board meetings.
All three candidates are cross-filed, meaning their names will appear on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. That also raises the possibility that the race could be decided in the primary election.
Elsewhere in the district, school board president Frederick Botterbusch is the only candidate running for the Region I position. Region I includes the 3rd through 5th wards in York Township. Region III includes Springfield Township and Dallastown, Jacobus and Loganville boroughs.
Residence: North Main St., Loganville
Family: Married, six grown children, one of whom now teaches at Loganville Elementary
Occupation: Electrical contractor
Education: Graduate from Dallastown High School, Class of 1954
Community involvement: School board member in Dallastown for 29 years, school board's representative on board for York County School of Technology, deacon and Sunday school teacher at Codorus Church of the Brethren, president of York Area
Carroll Tignall Jr.
Residence: Monarch Drive, Springfield Township
Family: Married to Patricia, four grown children
Occupation: Retired as senior financial/audit systems manager
Education: Bachelor's degree in management/accounting; attended George Washington University graduate school.
Community involvement: Volunteer at Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Martin's Home for the Aged in Baltimore, Md., member of Dallastown Area Taxpayers Coalition, board member and treasurer of Logan Greens Community Association.
Residence: Park Street, Jacobus Borough
Family: Married to Brian with two children - Joseph, a 2006 Dallastown graduate, and Jenna, who is in grade 6 at Dallastown Area Middle School
Occupation: School administrator
Education: Bachelor's Pennsylvania State University, master's degree from McDaniel College, additional graduate credits from Penn State for certification.
Community involvement: Nine years on the school board for the Dallastown Area School District, seven years as the district representative to the York Adams Tax Bureau, assistant leader/leader for Girl Scout troop, choir and member of Salem United Church of Christ in Jacobus
The York Dispatch asked the following questions of the Region III candidates:
1. The Dallastown school board raised taxes by 7.2 percent for 2005-06 and by 4.5 percent for 2006-07. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the job the school board has done at balancing the needs of students and taxpayers? Explain why you think the school board deserves that rating and back it up with an example, if possible.
Dell: The key to this challenge is balance. It is virtually impossible to provide for the needs of the students and cut taxes at the same time. Special education costs and improvement of instructional strategies to meet the No Child Left Behind legislation do not allow money for other needs. The cost of technology is also extremely expensive, but absolutely essential to our children. I would rate the board an "8." I think we are currently doing a good job, but there is always room for improvement.
Miller: I'd think we should get a high rating. We're trying to not raise the tax rate any more than we have to. At 4.5 percent last year, it dropped somewhat. We're trying to meet the needs of the students without going too far on taxes. Part of the past increases have been a matter of catching up with the needs we had.
Tignall: As a growing school district the most important issue is strategic planning that involves all stakeholders of the community. The current strategic plan for the school district does not include financial planning and spending is out of control. Too much taxpayer money is spent on unneeded facilities and programs. The proposed new Intermediate School far exceeds normal facilities required for elementary school students, violates the published Township Development Plan Ordinance, requires the transport of students from considerable distances, and will adversely impact property ownership of surrounding communities. The proposed facility is "of the educators, by the educators, and for the educators." It was stated the facility would improve the quality of education but no performance measurements were presented to verify its success or failure.
2. No Child Left Behind provisions require all students to score proficient or better on that state's PSSA tests by 2014. How would you rate the school district's progress in complying with that mandate? Are there any other steps the district should take to ensure compliance? Explain your answer.
Dell: The school district is currently meeting the benchmarks outlined in No Child Left Behind, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve the higher level scores. Our current test scores are beginning to flatten, but we are working harder to align curriculum K-12 to address all of the anchors that PSSA testing evaluates. I would give the district a "10" for the effort to comply, and give No Child Left Behind a much lower rating for the practicality of any school or entity being able to meet this unfunded, unrealistic mandate.
Miller: To me, No Child Left Behind is a touchy subject. Thats something we dont control. Not all students learn at the same rate. No Child Left Behind isnt fair to the children. We want to educate each kid to the best of their ability.
Tignall: No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was enacted to improve education and achievement and requires accountability. No one argues about the goals of NCLB (standards-based education reform) but educators complain about the implementation and funding requirements. Currently funding is shared among the federal, state, and local school districts each complaining that the other is not providing sufficient funding. However, some studies indicate that sufficient funding is available but that funds are not properly appropriated and/or expended for the intended purpose. To insure compliance an independent operational audit of the school district should be initiated to determine availability, allocation, and the use of funds and personnel for NCLB and results should be published on an annual basis as part of the budget process.
3. Most York County school boards, including Dallastown, decided to stick with the earned income tax rather than proposing a switch to the personal income tax in this year's tax relief referendum. Was that the correct decision? Why or why not? If the opportunity arises in the future, would you support a switch to the personal income tax? Again, why or why not?
Dell: The board appointed a committee to research the options and expected yield for the district. Overall, the 1% increase in the EIT was recommended as the best option for the majority. I believe this was the appropriate decision. Most taxpayers do not realize that there is no system in place to collect a personal income tax. There are two districts in the York Adams Tax Bureau area that approved the PIT option. The Bureau is currently researching options and software modifications to determine if they will be able to collect the PIT. If not, I'm not sure how the districts will be able to collect the taxes to support their decision. In the future the Dallastown board will reexamine any options for tax relief.
Miller: The earned income tax has been the tax that's been used. Until something better comes up, why change it? If we tax personal income, then we'd have a different type of group yelling at us.
Tignall: Act 1 is another failed attempt by the State Legislature at property tax reform. It is tax shifting not tax reform. The Dallastown Area School District Tax Committee made the same observation and recommended the lesser of two evils. The spending controls are illusory and eventually result in higher taxes for everyone. Voters should vote NO on the May Primary ballot. The best chance for real tax reform is the elimination of property tax and the passage of the Legislative "Plan For Pennsylvania Future" by the State Legislature as proposed by Rep. Sam Rohrer.
4. Specify a program, an initiative or a facility that you believe the Dallastown Area School District should start, evaluate or upgrade over the course of the next four years. Explain why you believe that endeavor should be a priority for the school district.
Dell: The district's facilities are overcrowded, and the proposal for an intermediate school would alleviate the overcrowding in all five elementary buildings, as well as the middle school and the high school. This initiative definitely needs to come to fruition during the next four years. At this point in time, this endeavor deserves top priority.
Miller: We are getting ready to start the new intermediate school, which will then allow all the elementary schools to be kindergarten through third grade and allow other changes so that there less overcrowding in all the other schools. The high school and junior high school will be grades seven through 12. This age grouping of students seems to be the way students blend together better.
Tignall: An in-depth analysis of resources and expenditures is required to reveal critical needs and deficiencies followed by the elimination and/or reduction of services that are not directly related to instructional support programs and required to meet education standards. In the past seven years the school property tax has increased substantially in spite of significant revenue surpluses. In the past two years there have been significant increases in administrative personnel and cost. Wasteful spending for duplicative and unnecessary personnel and services should be eliminated and financial planning incorporated in the strategic plan. Taxes should be raised only after a thorough evaluation and recommendation of the school board, the publication of a report supporting the recommendation, and a public referendum vote by the taxpayers.
5. Some school boards have been criticized for approving teacher raises above the rate of inflation. Is such criticism warranted in Dallastown? Why or why not? How do you feel about the level of compensation for teachers in the school district?
Dell: Ever since the strike in the district, the board, administration and association have been cautious about contract issues. No one wants to see a strike again. We all have had the luxury of contract settlements during an "early bird" phase well before expiration of the last two contracts. This does not come without a price. I believe that the experienced teachers in the district are well-compensated for their services, but there are also high expectations regarding the performance of all of the teachers and staff in the Dallastown Area School District. Our children are getting a quality education in this district.
Miller: You have to be qualified to be a teacher. The public hammers teachers pretty good because of the amount of money they make. But teachers have a tough job. I think the school board has a good teachers contract in place and I think the teachers are reasonably satisfied with what they are making.
Tignall: Teacher salaries are only one part of a compensation package that includes health care and retirement benefits, holiday and sick leave pay, education reimbursements, compensatory time, and many other benefits. Too often focus is on salaries alone and comparison with other school districts rather than adequacy of compensation and how it compares with the private sector. Dallastown like most other school districts should be criticized for not doing more to negotiate a total compensation package that meets teacher needs but is affordable by taxpayers. Details of compensation packages are not made public, but taxpayers are expected to pay for increases that far exceed rates of inflation. The overwhelming majority of community residents do not feel the school district tax is fair or reasonable.
6. What unique qualities do you offer the school board? And why should voters support you as a schoooard member for the next four years?
Dell: I have experience as a former teacher, currently serve as an administrator in another school, and worked in the PA Department of Education for over ten years at the policy level. These experiences provide unique insight into many of the issues that the district is facing. The strength of our current board is in the diversity that is represented through the members. I represent an educational perspective, and can evaluate programs and policies in relation to current regulations and requirements. I am a parent of a graduate of the district, and also of a current student. I am a lifelong resident of the Dallastown Area School District and attended school here. This grassroots perspective is invaluable to my school board service.
Miller: I've been involved with the school board for 29 years, and I'm there because I want to help make the schools better for the kids.
Tignall: I hope to bring a new perspective and responsible stewardship to the school board. My previous experience in financial management and regular attendance at school board meetings will assist in the development of a performance-based budget and upgrade the strategic plan to incorporate financial planning process. This will lead to improved measurement and accountability for the school district programs and reduction in taxes for the community. My involvement with the community association as an officer and board member gives me an opportunity to work with the families of the community and share their day-to-day challenges. My contact with the local government officials and participation in monthly meetings provides me a unique opportunity to understand and comprehend planning and zoning issues that impact the school district.