Berntheizel listed all the reasons Columbia needs to merge with another school district, chief among them the high tax rate placing a burden on citizenry. He said older residents are losing their homes, and homes are being sold at low prices and turned into rental units. More rentals, he said, brings in families with children, thereby placing an increased burden on schools. He asked the board where it will end. He said people will continue to move out.
"I think the school district needs to start that discussion. We're the only borough in Lancaster County that supports the school district, and we know what that's done to us," Berntheizel said.
Mayor Leo Lutz said it's time for the borough council and school board to join together and start discussions with our senator and representative. He said local legislators have not had a unified conversation with all the officials of the municipality and school district. "I think the time is probably right to do that," he said. "I don't think anybody's made enough noise, jointly - school and borough - to really catch their ear. Instead of asking for something to be done, maybe we need to jointly start getting together and pushing something to be done."
Newly elected Board President Keith Combs said that there are no current discussions on plans for a merger.
Lutz presented an additional idea to ease the tax burden. He said that the municipal building is commercially valuable and has a potential to be sold, rented or leased. He said that the borough is running out of space and suggested housing the borough offices in the district administration building along with the school board, for additional space, and as a cost-saving measure. Lutz said he would like to see a study done to see if the idea is feasible.
Combs said he welcomes residents to attend and participate in meetings. He said that attendance was strong a few months ago but dropped off dramatically. Many residents attended previously out of concern over the shared services deal with ELANCO, and a physical assault in a classroom, as well as other bullying.