Sunday, June 18, 2017

School board doesn't pass budget, citing ELANCO snub - but extends agreement

The Columbia School Board unanimously declined to pass a 2017-18 budget Thursday night, citing uncertainty over the shared services agreement with ELANCO. However, the board passed an amended motion for an extension until September 30, 2017. The current agreement was scheduled to expire June 30.  Much of the proposed budget assumes continuing the agreement, which includes services from ELANCO’s superintendent, business manager, and technology personnel. So far, ELANCO's board president has been unresponsive, according to several Columbia board directors.

In considering passage of the amendment for an extension, directors noted ELANCO's lack of engagement and that an extension might not solve the problem if ELANCO does not approve the agreement.

Vice-president Charles Leader said the budget is based on having the agreement. "As of right now, we don't have the agreement," he said.

ELANCO Superintendent Robert Hollister said the ELANCO board is comfortable with the extension proposed in the evening's agenda, which takes the agreement until September 30. "The Eastern Lancaster County Board has had the information and is still mulling it over," Hollister said. "My assumption is they have been waiting until the end of the year to review that."

Board director Rachael Kedney expressed frustration about ELANCO's lack of response, however. "We've done our part, but there's been no engagement," she said. "We're trying to do as a board what's responsible for Columbia Borough, and I'm very disappointed that we're not receiving anything from ELANCO. It concerns me that we're not able to have everything we need to approve a budget because of a lack of conversation."

Director Vickie Anspach also noted the problems with passing a budget. "It is difficult to make this decision especially with ELANCO's board not giving us a final decision yet."

Board president Keith Combs concurred with board directors. "We've not heard anything back although we've done our due diligence," Combs said. He suggested pushing the envelope and having Columbia board members meet with ELANCO's board president and solicitor before Columbia's committee of the whole meeting in August. Combs said he would like an answer before the end of three-month extension.

Board director Barry Ford cited concerns with allowing the agreement to die. "If this agreement expires, we're going to have to look for a superintendent, a business manager, technology people - and we can't afford that," he said. Ford said the September 30 extension would allow more time for negotiations.

But board director Kathy Hohenadel said continuing with extensions might not accomplish the goal. "We risk getting into that dangerous 'let it flow, let it flow, let it flow,'" she said. Hohenadel also said Columbia's efforts to give better direction to this partnership have gone unanswered by ELANCO. "Quite honestly, the president of the ELANCO board has been unresponsive," she said. "How do we know if we let it go to September 30 that we're going to any point in time get even a return phone call to our board president from the ELANCO board president? When do we say we need the courtesy of an answer from the board?"

Hollister noted that the ELANCO board will meet Monday, June 19 - the last opportunity to extend the deadline until next month's meeting.

Combs urged passing the extension: "I don't want to see this thing run out in two weeks, and Columbia Borough is left scrambling looking for multiple positions to fill before the next school year."

Ford cautioned about the dangers of losing the agreement altogether. "If we don't have this agreement, we can put the 'for sale' sign on the door," he said.

After discussion, the board passed an amended motion for an extension, with the stipulation that subsequent extensions not be allowed. All directors present voted for the motion - except Leader, who voted no. Directors Cole Knighton and Jenna Geesey were absent.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Chop Leader for voting against an extension.

Anonymous said...

When did the voting for the extension take place?

Anonymous said...

Time to end this agreement now not later we did not save any money this school year it is not working time the state steps in and does something not fair to are kids or are teachers we need to merge now we sure do look foolish

Anonymous said...

Mr. Leader is the hope for the taxpayers future here. Thanks

Joe Lintner said...

At Thursday's meeting.

Anonymous said...

Leader for mayor!

Anonymous said...

A message to Mr.Ford, agreement or not, we may as well put the "for sale" sign up now.The home owners are fed up with the high taxes. The board is trying to save money,but it is a losing battle.
Why is ELANCO dragging their feet? I think our board and residents deserve an answer or withhold a payment.

Anonymous said...

If all of you are so concerned about this get to the meetings and educate yourself. Otherwise shut up. You have no clue as to all of which is involved.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely, residents should make every effort to attend meetings, but they still won't know what's going on. How can they when some of the board members don't even know.

I have not seen any formal review or evaluation, in print, of how this first shared services year has turned out.

What we do know is that in order to help residents swallow the shared services agreement we were clearly told there would be grant money coming, but now we know that is not going to happen.

Another fact we now know is that ELANCO'S board president does not even care to acknowledge Columbia's board members.

We also know that this was supposedly done as a cost saving measure, yet our taxes are being increased.

Yes, do come to the meetings and wade through the bull#&!!

Anonymous said...

Board members sitting at meetings making vague statements like:
I think the shared services agreement is going very well.
Do not count as an evaluation.

Anonymous said...

It has me wondering why there is hardly a meeting when the full board is present.I know times have changed,but I believe if you can not make meetings,why serve. I know illnesses and emergencies occur,and that is excusable,but seems like certain members are hardly present.

Anonymous said...

At least Mr. Leader and Ms.Hohenadel are concerned about the agreement and if Columbia is getting it's "bang for the buck"

Anonymous said...

The Elanco board knows this Columbia situation is a losing battle. They know any time invested in keeping Columbia a separate school district is a waste of time. Now that they've seen the innerworkings of our district ask them if its feasible for Columbia to stay independent. Bet I know what their answer would be. Bet their taxpayers are glad their not in our situation.

Anonymous said...

Start a Columbia Charter School and let the State deal with the existing school. Hire top notch people and expand the charter school to serve other areas of Lancaster County and York County. Become a leader and a role model in the Charter School industry of Central Pennsylvania see:

Anonymous said...

Charter schools Deffinitely are not the answer. They are run by for profit owners who to often just find ways to make money off this. Look around the country how many of these owners are being investigated for over charges, racketeering etc.
The public schools need to be run at the state level by professionals. Not school boards in individual districts who have people with no business running an organization.