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East Penn Raises Taxes, Cuts Willow Lane Busing in 2012-2013 Budget

The average homeowner will pay $40.08 more next year in school taxes, according to the school district.

The East Penn School Board voted 6-3 Monday to pass a 2012-2013 budget that will raise taxes 1.3 percent.

This represents an increase of .6 of a mil, bringing total millage to 46.75 mils.

The increase is less than increase because the board -- on Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger's "gut feeling" -- added $200,000 back into the revenue side of the ledger on the expectation that the state of Pennsylvania will reinstate Accountability Block Grants when the state passes its budget in the next few days.

The board discussed voting on a budget that would include the ABG funds -- supplemental funds endowed by the state for programs, usually for the early elementary grades -- and would eliminate busing for Willow Lane Elementary students.

Several school directors said they were hesitant to "gamble" on the state to reinstate the funds, but Seidenberger said he has seen from several sources that it will be the case.

From member to member, most felt the best way to go was to rely on the $200,000 yet to be endowed and to cut out busing for students who live within 1.5 miles of Willow Lane.

"It was always meant to be a walker school," even in the planning stages, Seidenberger reminded board members.

Charles Ballard, Alan Earnshaw, Ken Bacher, Francee Fuller, Rebecca Heid and Samuel Rhodes voted in favor of the budget.

Julian Stolz, Lynn Donches and Michael Policano voted against.

Several parents addressed the board regarding safety concerns regarding students who will no longer be bused including the blind curves of Willow Lane itself. One mentioned a school festival last year at which a young student was hit by a car even though he was accompanied by parents.

Director Bacher asked the superintendent what constituted "safe" route or walkway in the interest of what it best for the students.

Seidenberger said the Pennsylvania State Police make the determination, and indeed some walker routes have been declared unsafe. 

Worried Parent June 27, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I was told by the township that a road study has not been done. It is my understanding that only the school district can request said study through PennDot. The township has to pull permits before putting up a traffic signal or signs and they then have to maintain those items. If this transition to no buses for the students has been in the "works" for years then there has been plenty of time to come to the table with a plan. None of the steps have been taken and now with less then 90 days before school starts everyone is fingerpointing and scurrying around trying to make things safe. The intersection of Willow and Sauerkraut is clearly unsafe. If PennDot deems it unsafe then bus service must be provided if I was informed correctly. The school district should have done this already and came to the table with their plan and ducks in a row.
for real June 27, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Worried parent who did you talk to? I was considering giving the Twsp. a call in the next coulple of days when I have a moment. This issue has my attention.
taxed-enough June 27, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Great idea with the walking school bus. They did this in the Mount Penn School District in Berks County (our neighboring county). However, it was not more than a mile of walking. That was the limit. And, it was only one day per week. There is a reasonable walking distance, and it is not 1.5 miles. If you think it is reasonable, please drive to the Pulte development, back to Sunningham Lane, and then walk to Willow Lane. In addition, the year that Willow Lane opened, on days after snow storms, I counted 22 properties between our house and Willow Lane that did not clear their sidewalks from deep snow. Also, Willow Lane itself did not clear the snow off of its walkway that is in front of the firehouse. Seriously, you might be a better person than I am, and I can be persuaded. So, on the next rainy day, please walk from Sunningham Lane (zip code 18062) and walk to Willow Lane and back with a backpack of books, and your lunch, and a musical instrument worth $1000.00. Please write your comment here. If you really think that this is reasonable for an elementary child, I can be persuaded. Problem might be that you have no idea where Sunningham is, so mapquest it. I will watch for comments, and please do this in inclement weather or rain. Anyone can walk to school on a nice day. I also was under the impression that no student in East Penn walks more than a mile to school currently. Can you share what road walks more than a mile currently?
Worried Parent June 27, 2012 at 12:34 AM
@for real.... I first called Dr. Seidenberger's office and spoke with the administrative assistant. She was very vague and was not able to answer many questions. She basically told me that it was all up to Lower Macungie Township. She provided me with the name of Bruce Fossilman and gave me his number (610)966-4343. He told me that a study from PennDot has not and will not be done. I was told by another concerned parent that they have been trying to get a school zone in place and signs/lights near the school since it opened. According to those concerned parents they were told that since this was a "well off" area that the parents would have to come together and foot the bills for the signs/lights...etc... I can only attest to what I was told directly by Dr. Seidenbergers office and the township but at the end of the day it comes down to dollars and cents rather then safety. I do not even like crossing the intersection of Sauerkraut/Willow because it is unsafe in my opinion. In the morning and evening rush and inclimate weather that intersection is a nightmare. There was already one very close call last year. If that wasn't enough to make the school zone more safe then I don't know what it will take. The clock is ticking though and I don't know how they plan to pull this all off. Thanks for real.
for real June 27, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Thanks, I just found this article on the morning call. Keep us informed please: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/eastpenn/mc-east-penn-willow-lane-20120626,0,7796597.story
Worried Parent June 27, 2012 at 01:01 AM
@ Steve.... we were born and bred here. We are not "out of town prima donnas". We are parents who work hard every day and want to make sure that our young children are safe. If there is nothing constructive to add why are some people leaving such judgemental, irrational and nasty commentary. This is a place for parents who are worried about the safety of our children to come together with a solution for keeping our children safe. There are registered sex offenders in our community, persons who speed through neighborhoods with complete disregard for anyones safety, and a host of other safety issue that can directly impact our children. It is funny to read some of these posts.... the ignorance and immaturity is absolutely ridiculous. We can all have differing opinions. I respect that your opinion differs from so many of ours.... however name calling as an adult is quite inappropriate. We should all be working towards one goal and that is keeping the kids safe and getting them the education that each one deserves.
tamarya June 27, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Exactly, I know when I was in school too the minute you walked out of your house to get your bus or you walked out of your house to walk to school you automatically became liabilty of the school, for some reason since you have to sign waivers for even field trips at east penn I do not think that will be the case here. If they want to cut bussing then they should be liable for kids enroute to school like it was 16 yrs ago, but then again maybe thats why they don't want bussing either it is a liabilty issue if the bus is in an accident and we know east penn will not want to accept that either. So far brandywine and parkland since my friend's daughter goes there, you do not need to sign liabilty forms for everything the kids attend, but east penn you do.
Ron Beitler June 27, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Crossing guards are the solution IMO to that intersection in the short term. Long term solution shouldn't be rushed. The intersection right now does not warrant a traffic light. Volume is only high twice a day. Crossing guards would do the trick. Here is my reasoning. Human crossing guards stop traffic when pedestrians arrive at the crosswalk. Anyone whose waited for the safe to cross signal at an automated traffic light knows this is very inefficient. Further when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk the guard keeps traffic stopped till pedestrian finishes crossing. With a light, even if the kids are still in the crosswalk a green light will turn green. We are trained to GO when the lights turns green. We need human crossing guards. I have no idea about 15 mph school zone. I plan on finding out. I've "heard" it's the townships responsibility. Long term I think single lane roundabout with pedestrian islands installed is the best way to go. This is actually a perfect location since the area is large enough. These are statistically proven to be much safer for pedestrians then signals. This also makes a ton more sense in this type of intersection with only moderate traffic at certain times. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/MDOT_RoundaboutBrochure_312721_7.pdf And PennDOT - http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Internet/web.nsf/Secondary?openframeset&frame=main&src=RoundaboutContactInfo?readform
Matthew Mull June 27, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Ah the good old days. When women drank and smoked during pregnancy, men could throw down a few drinks and knock their wives around if they gave them any lip without repercussions, seatbelts were an option on new cars, and a nice rare steak 4 times a week was eating healthy.
Really? June 27, 2012 at 12:12 PM
They only need to be signed out if they are being picked up early, not if they are taking their regular way home.
LMTnative June 27, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Great points Ron!
Really? June 27, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Just so you know worried parent- I have registered sex offenders, speeding cars, and drug dealers here in my neighborhood. It is not only in your neck of the woods! It's everywhere!! My kids are walked to the bus stop because it is my responsibility as a parent. If I could not do it, I would pay for someone to do it. That is what I signed up for when I decided to have children!!
Robert Sentner June 27, 2012 at 12:29 PM
I guess the thing I find Ironic is this is the "big cut" $60,000 dollar busing for willow lane ??? so many other places to cut. But No one has the balls to take on any responsability, how about some of the janitors, admin, they have more fancy trucks, lawnmowers, fencing than any where. A cutomer of mine bought an "OLD" used up van from the school district for peanuts, was in better shape than 95% of the vans on the road and in my professional opinion did not need to be replaced. lets just tone it down a little. And of coarse we can't say anything about the pensions. No lets stop busing before we have a safety plan or I'll bet before we have talked to township officials. I am with Ron we need to make sure it is safe lets not put the cart in front of the horse. anyone ever question the 6.5 MILLION dollar bus contract ????
Worried Parent June 27, 2012 at 12:50 PM
@Really?.... WOW! After a career in law enforcement and a family in the field of law enforcement... I had no idea that crime is everywhere (insert sarcasm here.) I am so grateful that people like you are able to tell me the responsibilities of a good parent (again, insert sarcasm.) I take our children to school but I do already PAY someone to bring them home safely. I pay EAST PENN $7,000 in taxes to utilize a bus. Hey....thanks for the intelligent insight though and I will be sure to take your comments under advisement.... not really. You are correct Robert.... the safety of this decision needs to be thoroughly explored. East Penn needs to request a study from PennDot and make it available to parents.
Really? June 27, 2012 at 01:12 PM
East Penn would NOT do something that would put children in jeopardy!!! If you have such little faith in them...MOVE!!!! Yes, I pay taxes too but I do not pay East Penn to drive my children door to door!!! It is my responsibility to get them to the bus stop or to the school. Most of the kids that would be walking are not being put in jeopardy!! They will make arrangements for those that can't do it in a safe manner. They are in the business of children. All of these people are crying about all of the terrible things going on and why it is not safe. That is why I pointed out that it is not even safe to let your child go to the bus stop alone. It is not going to be convenient for some people, but it will not take any longer tgan walking and waiting with your child to the bus stop.
Worried Parent June 27, 2012 at 01:25 PM
The kids safety is in jeopardy by the decision of East Penn to discontinue bissing withoit having a thorough and well thought out plan in place. All of the measures needed for safety take time and planning. Crossing guards need to be hired by the schools or township. This is not to mention the budget needes to obtain signs and or lights for problem intersections. It is just common sense. The intersection of Willow...Sauerkraut is a logistical nightmare when school is in session. Also....if this was always zoned as a walking community then the safety plans should be well underway and ready to implement. Parents have a right to be concerned. I will no longer even dignify ignorance with a response.
tamarya June 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Oh yeah matthew and car seats were not needed for children, just planting their butts on the seats without even the lap belt was safe. How I would love to go back to the old days.
Really? June 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
It was built knowing it was going to be a walking school. They already had that figured into the plans, hence the sidewalks!!
Worried Parent June 27, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The "sidewalks" are actually considered bike paths by the township. Since they are considered bike paths they remain snow and ice covered throughout the winter season. People in the neighborhoods have called for years to have the "sidewalks" cleared for safety and that is what was relayed by the township. "Hence"...the concern.
Really? June 27, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Maybe you should all be in an uproar about the millions of dollars paid out of your taxes to support charter schools!! You should all be complaining about that since it has caused increased class size and put your child's education in jeopardy. Maybe you should all be more involved at the local and state level to petition your representatives about the unfair mandates that are not being funded that are causing our school systems to collapse!! You all think it is related to the salaries of teachers. It is unfunded and underfunded mandates that are bankrupting schools. You all need to be involved in every aspect of schools and how they function, not just when you are being inconvenienced by having to walk a little further with your child. I would be more than happy to pay extra each year to reduce class size and to make sure my children have the extras that most school districts are cutting. Look around you, this is not just an East Penn problem. It is everywhere!! Look at the inner workings of a school and you'll see that it all points to decreased funding from out government. Education should be a priority and forget about bailing out banks and other countries!!!!!
Ron Beitler June 27, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I 100% think that the 'bike paths' should be plowed. These paths were designed as bike paths when the developments around the school were installed. That is true, but they havent been used as such in practice. Bikers for the most part use the street and walkers use the 'bike paths'. These paths get used hard but mostly walking/jogging/strollers ect. In fact the township is now considering bike lanes on Saurkraut Ln from Rt. 100 to Brookside. If they do so the rationale that these are bike paths holds even less water. These are definitely sidewalks.
Ron Beitler June 27, 2012 at 02:13 PM
@ really - While I completely understand parents worried about this particular issue. I 100% agree with you on your general comment about people getting more involved in all aspects local politics. We need more advocacy both locally and at the state level to fix fundamental problems that is for sure. By the time it comes to "reacting" it is normally too late. Be a part of the solution. Stay informed with whats going on at school board level. Learn about issues happening on the state level. I was shocked to see only about 40 (guessing) people at the school board meeting. That was the biggest meeting of the entire year. Less than a dozen people spoke up. Locally - Get involved...Development issues and out of control growth's negative effects on EPSD enrollment.... Pedestrian friendly development ect. ect. The Police protection issue is going to be HUGE in LMT next cpl years. (moving away from PSP will equal an AUTOMATIC imo at min 2 mil tax increase) State Level - Do most people even know there was recently legislation to reform property tax once again on the table in the state house? Sadly the bill didn't even get out of the finance committee level. The pension issue, charter schools ect. ect. This particular issue should have been on parents radars and prepared for. LMT and EPSD have had preliminary discussions. Were the parents involved over the last couple of months?
thesilentmajority June 27, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Many of us were caught off guard when we bought homes in East Penn. Endless re-districting, closing of Kings Highway School, creation of Kindergarten Center and subsequent closing of Kindergarten Center. How come we weren't grandfathered in when we signed the contract for our home 17 years ago. Are you kidding me?? Ah....the beauty of school choice. It's beginning to look better and better!
tamarya June 27, 2012 at 10:46 PM
I have just realized something, all of you are saying why should we pay for busing, maybe read the article headline they are still raising your taxes and cutting the buses to willow lane. A logical argument would be why are we paying higher taxes when they are removing something from the school. So I guess they can take what they want away from the school district and you will still pay the higher taxes because apparently alot are missing that.
tamarya June 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Then it is something big like the buses for grade school kids, now I mean if it was the chess club or lacrosse or any of their other extra sports or clubs I could see, but don't dare take that away but lets take their transportation away and still pay for it.
keith mcdermott June 28, 2012 at 10:23 PM
I WALKED TO SCHOOL MY WHOLE LIFE AND FOUND IT TO BE FUN. WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE UPSET WITH IS THIS SCHOOL BOARD ONCE AGAIN RAISED THE SCHOOL TAX. I AM AT THE POINT WHERE I AM CONSIDERING SELLING MY HOUSE AND MOVING OUT OF THIS SCHOOL DISTRICT. WHAT IS IT 10 - 11 YEARS IN A ROW WITH A TAX HIKE. THESE IDIOTS KNOW NOTHING OTHER THEN TO RAISE TAX VOTE THEM ALL OUT
tamarya June 28, 2012 at 11:11 PM
People are missing their taxes are still going up, if I am going to pay more to the school kids or no kids attending they damn well shouldn't be taking stuff away. As for you walking to school, that was then this is now, I never rode in a carseat because they were not required so if I would get pregnant again should I place my newborn in the car without a seat since I never needed one and survived car rides?
Really? June 29, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Kids walk to school every day in this country!! Your taxes would have went up a few more cents a year had they continued bussing the kids.
Garrett Rhoads July 02, 2012 at 10:34 PM
It wasn't a lack of "safety measures". It was a lack of attention paid by the parents and the driver. You also fail to mention that this incident occurred during the school festival after school hours, not walking to school for class.
tamarya July 02, 2012 at 10:56 PM
That accident was a result of the driver stepping on the gas after they saw pedestrians waiting to cross and the child walked across. Yes it was not on school hours but impatient and careless drivers drive at all times of the day, especially during school hours when they have to get to work, because they cannot leave with enough time to get there.

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