Category Archives: NEWS / OPINION

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Sorting out CD school board race

The municipal primary election on May 21 is only hours away — and the hottest race by far is for Central Dauphin School Board in voting region #2.

The winners of this race could impact who holds leadership positions on the board starting late this year.

You’ll be voting for the candidates shown above if you live in western and southern Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin Borough and Middle Paxton Township. CLICK HERE for a map of Central Dauphin’s three voting regions.

There’s been what probably is an unprecedented amount of money spent on campaign signs, mailers and billboards by a pair of two-person teams.

The candidates are Richard Mazzatesta and his partner Ted Giovanis and their opponents Lauren Silvers and Ryan Gonder.

Below are videos of the candidates taken during a forum held on April 17 by Linglestown Area Civic Association:

Notes:

The candidates in region #3 that covers eastern sections of Lower Paxton Township and all of West Hanover Township are unopposed. This means incumbent Ford Thompson and former school board member Linda Dallago will appear on the November ballot.

Voting region #1 is outside the coverage area of Linglestown Gazette. It’s located in Swatara Township, Paxtang and Penbrook.

TED GIOVANIS

RYAN GONDER

RICHARD MAZZATESTA

LAUREN SILVERS

 

 

CD schools face cash crunch in 2022

By Bill Bostic

Central Dauphin School District is on track to hold the line on taxes for next school year, but there’s trouble brewing in 2022 if things stay as they are now.

The district’s most recent five-year financial projection shows the operating fund running out of money by the tune of $3 million in 2022. The report is used as a planning tool and is only a rough estimate of what’s coming down the pike. But the numbers serve as a warning that the district is on shaky financial ground in the near term.

The scary thing about this situation is that Central Dauphin School District is in good financial shape when compared to most school districts across the state. Karen McConnell, assistant superintendent of finance, regularly says the district has had clean state audits and above average bond ratings, which is helpful when the district borrows money for major projects.

With that being the case, why is the district trying to close a $1.9 million budget gap for next school year and facing a potential cash shortage in the not too distant future?

State government funding is NOT keeping pace

Recent budget information sessions held by the school board have shown that the primary driver of the problem is state government underfunding Central Dauphin and many other school districts by millions of dollars a year.

Based on an education funding formula adopted by the state in 2015 but only partially implemented, Central Dauphin received $5.8 million less than the formula calls for this school year. And it’s worse for next school year with the preliminary shortage from the state being pegged at $6.9 million.

Making matters worse are school employee pension contributions that the state has increased by millions of dollars a year since 2011, state-mandated contributions for charter schools, and other required expenses that increase every year.

Citizens need to get involved

School board member Eric Epstein recommended that school officials and residents contact two local state lawmakers to ask for increased state funding — State Senators Mike Folmer of Lebanon County and John DiSanto of Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County.

Both lawmakers are members of the Senate’s Education Committee, he said.

The school board’s finance committee met last week and the tentative plan is to use $4.4 million in reserve dollars and not fill some staff positions when they come open to balance the 2019-2020 budget. No tax hike is planned for the first time since the budget adopted in 2013.

By using reserve funds this year, it’s unlikely the district can avoid a tax hike next year without more help from the state and possibly staff furloughs.

McConnell will explain the district’s preliminary 2019-2020 budget and take questions from the public during an information meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 9 in the Central Dauphin East High School auditorium, 626 Rutherford Road. The session will start at 7 p.m.

The board needs to finalize the budget for next school year by June 30.

Below is contact information for asking Folmer and DiSanto to help increase state funding for CD schools:

Senator John DiSanto                Senator Mike Folmer
Senate Box 203015                    Senate Box 203048
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3015           Harrisburg, PA 17120-3048

Room: 168 Main Capitol              Room: 337 Main Capitol
(717) 787-6801                           (717) 787-5708

 

 

CD school officials look to end string of tax hikes

By Bill Bostic

Central Dauphin School District’s administration appears to have been given a mandate by the school board to produce a budget for the 2019-2020 school year that does not include a tax hike.

School property taxes have gone up about 15% over the last five years. There’s been growing pressure applied by a few board members to end the string of what some call “automatic tax hikes.”

Karen McConnell, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance, told the school board earlier this week that the budget planning process started last fall needed to find $8 million to produce a balanced budget that is required by state law. That number is now down to $2.6 million in a budget that most likely will come in at a little over $200 million.

She believes she can get the gap down to $1 million over the next few weeks. If that comes true, the budget most likely would be balanced by using reserve funds and not filling some staff positions when they come open.

McConnell said the district’s student population continues to grow, a trend that prevents the district from reducing the number of teachers and support staff without increasing class sizes.

School board member Stephen Smith expressed concern about the impact of not raising the tax rate on the district’s finances over the next few years. With the state government capping the size of tax hikes, he reminded the board that the dollars not received by keeping the tax rate level next school year would be lost forever. The district could hike taxes a maximum of 2.8% this year.

School board member Eric Epstein indicated that he has several ideas for reducing expenses and will meet with McConnell to discuss them.

On another front, residents have inquired about going from half-day kindergarten to a full-day program – and some are calling for pre-kindergarten classes. Outgoing Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson recently said she supports both programs but there’s no funding available to put them in place at this time.

Epstein has pointed out that Central Dauphin was underfunded by $5.8 million last year by the state government implementing a fair funding formula in an unfair way. Adding to the district’s financial challenges has been skyrocketing state-mandated pension costs that have gone from $4 million in 2011 to an estimated $27 million next school year.

The board has to adopt a preliminary budget by May 9 and a final version by June 30.

To get more information on the district’s budget and property taxes, residents can attend a town hall meeting on Monday, April 29 at Central Dauphin East Middle School located at 628 Rutherford Road. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

 

 

Central Dauphin superintendent resigns

By Bill Bostic

Central Dauphin School District Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson announced her resignation Monday from the position effective June 30 and her intention to retire from public education.

She was appointed to the position in 2012. Prior to becoming the superintendent, she was the district’s assistant superintendent and a principal at Linglestown Middle School and Central Dauphin High School.

Despite a long list of accomplishments that Johnson noted in her resignation speech, she said it was time to move on and allow someone else to deal with criticisms and controversies that have cropped up in recent months.

Following her announcement, board member Justin Warren expressed disappointment in the board’s lack of civility, dismissive nature and critical tone. He went on to challenge fellow board member Richard Mazzatesta about an email he shared with board members about the district’s state assessment data.

Board chairman Ford Thompson expressed regret and sadness about Johnson’s resignation.

“It’s not OK for the acrimony to occur over the last 17 months,” he said.

The meeting ended with Central Dauphin East principal Dr. Jesse Rawls, Jr. and other district employees thanking Johnson for her service to the district.
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This story was first published by PennLive.com.

 

 

 

 

Lower Paxton community leader honored

Lower Paxton resident, Central Dauphin School Board member and political activist Eric Epstein was recognized last week by Stray Winds Area Neighbors for his longtime service to the community watchdog group. He is stepping down as the group’s president, a position he has held for about 13 years.

A view of Stray Winds Farm prior to development as a residential community.

He was presented with a painting of the John Goodway Sycamore, which is located in the Linglestown Road corridor and is one of the oldest trees in Pennsylvania.

SWAN was founded to address traffic, environmental and recreational issues related to the development of the Stray Winds Farm estate by Lower Paxton-based Triple Crown Corporation. After years of delays due to litigation, construction of homes at Stray Winds is now well under way. It is located south of Linglestown Road between Colonial and Crums Mill roads, and McIntosh Road runs through the middle of the development.

Over the years SWAN has expanded its role in the community to be a watchdog group of land use and environmental issues on a township-wide basis in Lower Paxton. Members of the group attend most township meetings to keep tabs on what is being addressed by local officials.

 

 

Lower Paxton has new top gun

Lower Paxton Township supervisors voted 4-1 last night to hire Bradley Gotshall, as the township’s new manager. He currently is the manager of Millersville Borough in Lancaster County.

For details, click here for a story by Bill Bostic that was published by PennLive.com. And here’s a link to Gotshall’s resume on LinkedIn.

Bostic did a quick interview with Gotshall following his hiring.

 

 

Where are CD grads now? – Greg St. Clair Jr.

By Anne Long
For Linglestown Gazette

Five years after his graduation from Central Dauphin High School in 2013, Greg St. Clair Jr. has
landed in the National Football League with an internship as a videographer for the Baltimore Ravens.

A lifelong fan, St. Clair grew up going to Ravens games with his father, a season ticket holder
since 1997.

It’s no surprise then that St. Clair was ecstatic when he received word that the Ravens had awarded him the internship.

“I was elated. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it.”

And, he’s fulfilling a childhood dream: to be surrounded by the players he loves and the sport he loves.

“It’s one of my favorite things in this life. I just love all of it: the camaraderie, the strategy, the pageantry … . My first day, I walked into lunch with the production team, and I almost ran into Joe Flacco getting a glass of milk.”

When he’s not bumping elbows with players, he’s shooting and editing footage for the team’s use. Some days he’s out on the practice field with the production crew filming the practices, and then tagging the team members, opponents, and editing the film to help with performance and strategy. Other days he’s editing two of the Ravens TV news segments: Final Drive and Mail Bag.

Hard work plays key role

But getting the opportunity to work with the Ravens was not something that St. Clair stumbled upon. No. In the five years after he graduated Central Dauphin, St. Clair has worked hard and
overcome challenges to follow his dreams.

He attended Stevenson University – a small private school in Maryland – where he majored in accounting. At the time, it was his goal to work for one of the big four accounting firms in the
world. He even interned at Ernst & Young the summer before his senior year of college.

But, St. Clair cherished a love for film and picked up a minor in his sophomore year, hoping to incorporate it into his accounting.

“Once the minor came into play, I figured if I was going to have a focus in the accounting world, I could audit stuff for film companies,” said St. Clair.

Even then, he was losing his original zeal for the accounting life. And, once he completed his internship, he was certain that accounting wasn’t for him.

“It wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing.”

He graduated college wanting nothing to do with his major and wanting to focus on the film
industry.

Doing his own thing paved path to NFL gig

“I didn’t want to be an accountant so badly, the only way I could defer it was doing my own
thing,” said St. Clair.

Moving back to central Pennsylvania, St. Clair started his own videography company, PhantomLand Media, and began to pick up weddings, real estate work, and did some promotion for the Central Dauphin High School Drumline while working as an instructor. He also became a certified drone pilot.

“The motivation for the work I do now is because I just don’t want to have to go back [to accounting],” said St. Clair.

With such an incredible work ethic and desire to take every opportunity, it’s no wonder that others started to recognize St. Clair for his talents.

He ended up landing an internship with NFL films, which got him into the sports film industry and had influence in getting this opportunity with the Ravens. His internship coordinator, Dan
Haessler, knew Jay O’Brien, the vice president of broadcasting with the Ravens, and sent him emails on St. Clair’s behalf, knowing that he would be a good fit for his team.

Tough decision pays off

During that time, however, St. Clair had just accepted a job with Driven Media Group, an
advertising agency in the auto industry. In fact, the day St. Clair accepted the job with Driven
Media, he got a message from the Ravens inviting him to apply for the broadcasting internship.

One can imagine this would be a tough decision, but for St. Clair, it was easy. He applied.

“Why not?” he asked. “It’s another opportunity to get back into what I want to be doing, which is the film industry of football.”

Interviewing, however, didn’t go as he thought.

The Ravens planned out an entire morning for him. St. Clair met the production team and Jay O’Brien, and then they had him edit a news segment. After lunch, the plan was to finish up
editing and meet some more people on the crew. However, plans changed. Instead, O’Brien said he would take a look at what St. Clair had done so far and then take him on a tour around the stadium. They finished the day early, and St. Clair left feeling as if he had blown the interview.

He followed up with the Ravens later, and the rest, as we know, is history. St. Clair quit his job with Driven Media and is now interning full-time with the Ravens.

With football season in full swing, he’s hoping to receive more responsibilities, and the future is full of opportunity.

St. Clair has the opportunity to stay on another year as an intern with the Ravens, but after that he’s not sure what he might be doing.

“Finding another job in sports doing something similar, hopefully,” he said.

In the meantime, St. Clair is still running his own videography company, PhantomLand Media.

Check out Greg’s work

You can find his work with the Ravens on their website. And, you can find his videography work at here, on Facebook and YouTube at PhantomLand Media, and on Instagram @phantomlandmedia.
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Photo: Greg St. Clair Jr. is pictured with his fiancee.

 

 

SWAT car, Mission BBQ headline Night Out event

By Charles Zinn
Linglestown Gazette summer intern

Have you ever wanted to see an armored SWAT car up close?

That is one of the pieces of equipment Lower Paxton Township officials are bringing to the annual National Night Out at George Park, so now is your chance.

The National Night Out is a celebration held across the nation where people from the community can come out to meet local first responders who help protect and keep them safe.

“There’s going to be some technical stuff there,” said Lower Paxton Township Police Corporal Walt Cook, the officer spearheading the event. Beyond the SWAT car, he highlighted some of the new wrinkles coming in this year, including horses and a helicopter.

However, Cook wanted to make sure people understand that none of these things will appear for certain. Due to the nature of their emergency services work, they may not arrive if they receive a call.

“That’s all mission pending. I’m not going to say it’s happening until its flying over us,” he said regarding the helicopter.

Leigh Ann Urban, the township’s communications manager, also shared some information she knew. When asked about food and entertainment, she said Mission BBQ will be there to distribute food, and that would be it.

“It’s not meant to be a concert. It’s to promote community,” Urban explained.

As always, there will many community groups and businesses with information tables to get citizens in the know about their programs and services.

National Night Out at George Park this Tuesday, August 7 from 5 – 8 p.m. The park is located about a quarter-mile south of Paxtonia Elementary School along Nyes Road.

 

 

Policing fireworks in LP is a work in progress

By Charles Zinn
Linglestown Gazette summer intern

The July 4th holiday is over, but some people are still in a booming holiday mood over their new toy authorized by a new state law – aerial fireworks.

While many people appear to love celebrating nearly a month after the July 4th holiday, citizens in some parts of Lower Paxton Township have been disturbed by fireworks on a near nightly basis.

The novelty might be rubbing off a bit in recent days, but it will likely rev up again as Labor Day nears.

The state law allows Pennsylvanians to legally buy consumer-grade aerial fireworks, but it did include a few regulations. The primary one disallows fireworks being fired within 150 feet of an occupied structure.

And on the local level, it’s a violation of Lower Paxton’s noise ordinance to set off fireworks after 10 p.m.

One hotbed of fireworks activity since July 4th has been Colonial Park. Most spots in this densely populated suburban neighborhood do not have enough space between homes and businesses to legally launch fireworks.

Yet nightly fireworks shows were happening through July 22, according to one resident.

It got so bad that he called the Lower Paxton Township police three times during one evening for assistance in tracking down the perpetrator. Police were unable to crack the case.

Lower Paxton police are aware of this issue, but Adam Kosheba, the township’s public safety director, last week did not want to give an official statement on how the township will enforce state and local laws.

In the meantime, Gazette readers can try to pinpoint as best as possible the location of suspected illegal fireworks activity and call 911 for assistance.
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Related article: ‘It was like a war zone’ with fireworks being shot off, police to issue citations (York Daily Record)

 

 

LP dodges big stink over mammoth trash containers

By Charles Zinn
Linglestown Gazette summer intern

Lower Paxton Township officials most likely are patting themselves on the back based on what’s happening in neighboring West Hanover Township.

Why?

Well, taking out the trash is harder these days in West Hanover Township, according to some residents who showed up at a recent township supervisors’ meeting.

Residents of Country Manor Farms, a 55+ mobile home community located along Old Route 22 behind Aroogas, aired their problems with large trash containers that are now required to be used under the township’s new trash-hauling contract with Waste Management. They said the trash cans are too big for them to haul to the curb.

“Everybody here is all senior citizens and they have a hard time pulling them out,” said Helen Marriott.

Some residents of other housing communities in the township have also expressed a dislike for the new containers.

The containers are designed to work with trucks equipped with automated side loaders.

Lower Paxton Township recently considered going with Waste Management’s large trash bins but opted against them when residents and some township officials were concerned about their size.

“People say the cans are too ugly, too big, and won’t fit in their garage,” said Daniel Rosario, West Hanover Township’s manager.

When asked about senior citizens being unable to pull the cans to the curb, Rosario said residents can fill out a form to obtain an exemption from the curbside requirement.

However, that procedure doesn’t seem to be working for at least one resident.

“They promised they would come up and pull them to the road, which they did not do,” Marriott said.

Rosario said the rationale for the township-issued containers came about because the old system wasn’t working.

“The problem is people are not following the ordinances,” he said.

Some citizens did not put lids on their trash cans and this resulted some days in trash flying everywhere and litter collecting in neighbors’ yards. Township officials decided to agree to have a standardized trash can with an attached lid to help keep the litter to a minimum.

In response to complaints, the township plans to have a workshop meeting on August 13 to discuss possible changes to the contract with Waste Management.

 

 

Longtime LP leader passes away

Longtime Lower Paxton Supervisor Bill Hawk passed away Saturday.

He served as a supervisor for over 20 years and was the board chairman during most of those years. This spring he was elected as president of a statewide association of township officials.

“Hawk was proud that the Lower Paxton supervisors always tried to be a ‘listening board’ whenever citizens had opinions and ideas to share at meetings or during private conversations,” said Bill Bostic, publisher and editor of Linglestown Gazette. “He was a true public servant and a man that I count as a role model. Bill will be greatly missed.”

“Bill’s impact on Lower Paxton has been immeasurable,” said Lowman Henry, chairman of the township Board of Supervisors. “Lower Paxton developed into a major township over his years in office.”

“Bill made sure the township grew in an orderly fashion. He touched every facet of life in Lower Paxton over the last 20 years, and he was supportive of the effort to develop George Park and worked to assist the township’s first responders.”

Township Supervisor Chris Judd remembered Hawk in a Facebook post: “Politics can harden the heart, but I don’t know anyone who could detect an ounce of cynicism in Bill over his many years as a civic leader.”

No funeral plans were available at the time this update was published.

The township will have to fill Hawk’s seat during the next month or so. Contact the township office if you want to apply for the position.