When: School board meeting, in person, June 8.
What happened: About 70 community members attended the board’s committee of the whole meeting to voice concerns about wearing a mask at school and the effects it had on their children during the past school year. Three students spoke out against wearing masks in school. It was a peaceful protest, as community members said they want to work with the district and just want school leadership to know they want mask wearing to be a choice, not mandatory, in the future.
Next school year: Prior to comments from the public, board President Richard Gehman read a statement that said Ephrata Area School District staff and students will not be required to wear face masks in school in the fall, and staff and students will not be required to be vaccinated.
Budget talk: After more than an hour discussion, board members asked district Business Manager Kristee Reichard to provide a cost breakdown for a 2.5%, 2.75% and 2.9% tax increase for the 2021-22 school budget. Gehman polled board members, and the majority said they favor a 2.5% increase and a tax levy of 17.68 mills to fund the $76.12 million spending plan.
What this means: The owner of a property assessed at the district average of $173,718 would face a $75 increase and tax obligation of $3,071.33. Last year, the district had no tax increase.
What’s next: The board will vote on a final budget at its regular June 14 meeting to be held at the Ephrata Middle School media room and via Zoom.
Project financing: Scott Kramer, managing director at Capital Markets, spoke about financing a $35 million project to upgrade district buildings. The plan was approved in May for $32.85 million, but the extra cost will cover architecture and other fees. There was a lengthy discussion about financing options and the annual debt service run rate.