Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center Director Chris Moritzen speaking Tuesday
LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Surprised by a more than 9-percent increase in the Pottsgrove School District’s projected share of costs to operate the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center next year, the district Board of School Directors said Tuesday (April 25, 2017) it would take two weeks to consider whether it wanted to support or reject the center’s proposed 2017-2018 budget of $6.1 million.
The center is in its third year under the leadership of Director Chris Moritzen (at top), who during the school board meeting praised both its broader job-training programs and the growing attendance of Pottsgrove students in them. Their heightened participation is a primary reason Pottsgrove is being asked to pay an additional $123,000 in support over last year.
Over a five-year period, the annual average number of Pottsgrove students attending the center has risen from 64 to 80, up by 24 percent, Moritzen said.
The center’s more expensive request comes at a time when Pottsgrove faces a $600,000 revenue shortfall in its own budget next year, and has directors looking at every line item for possible savings. Some board members have openly expressed their desire to avoid any budget tax increase, and arrival of the center’s higher figures earlier this month prompted alarm.
The Spring-Ford Area and Upper Perkiomen schools districts send students to the Graterford Road, Limerick, facility too, and also pay a proportionate share of the budget. A joint operating committee of board members from all three districts oversees the center.
Director Rick Rabinowitz said he was troubled the center had failed to consult with the districts before the joint committee approved its budget. The districts deserved the chance to provide comments and suggest changes in advance, he added. “We all agree the job you folks are doing is wonderful,” he told Moritzen, but nonetheless questioned specific increases in personnel and program costs.
They include contractually negotiated wage increases for a limited number of employees, new instructor costs for protective services and sports medicine programs, support help for special education teachers, and some rising prices for materials and supplies.
Board member Bill Parker agreed the board “appreciated the work being done” by the center, “but you’ve got to tighten the cost factor.”
Moritzen noted superintendents from all three districts reviewed the proposed budget during February, and opposed primarily one item: additional instructor time for protective services to cover its expanded list of state-required tasks to be accomplished by students. Pottsgrove Superintendent Dr. William Shirk confirmed the meeting and the objection, but said at the time he lacked explanatory information Moritzen later supplied.
“We needed more answers, more information to make better decisions,” Shirk said of the earlier meeting. Now that Moritzen has provided not only data for but the rationale behind some cost increases, “maybe we should take a couple of weeks” to review it, Shirk suggested. The board agreed, and is expected to include the topic on its next meeting agenda.
Director Robert Lindgren, who also is a committee member, encouraged Shirk and other directors to let their committee representatives know of future problems or needs regarding the center, so they can be quickly addressed. Lindgren also assured the board it would receive the following year’s center budget figures well in advance, with plenty of time for review.
Photo by The Post Publications