On and Off The Mountain-Stephanie Grubert

We are enjoying the last week of February 2017 with some temperate and even warm days behind us. This of course is in contrast to the coldest winter in 116 years in 2015. Yes, our globe has warmed just enough to give us hope for an early spring.

School Tax Increase

The Crestwood School Board passed a preliminary 2017-2018 Budget at nearly $38.5 million last week with a tax increase of 3.3 percent from last year and higher than the 3.1 percent maximum allowed by a state index without state exemption or voter approval. The 2016-17 Crestwood Budget is 36.7 million. The proposal is $1.8 million more than the current year.

The proposed Crestwood property tax for a $200,000 evaluation is $2040, an increase of $80 from the $1960 current tax.

At the same time Superintendent Joseph Gorham announced that total Crestwood enrollment dropped by 54 students from February 2016 to February 2017 to 2812 students, a loss of nearly 2 percent. Crestwood’s enrollment has been dropping for years and yet the budget is increasing? Based on the proposed $38.5 million budget, the cost of educating one student in the Crestwood School District is $13,676.

Unlike the private sector, which has to earn the money to pay employees and their benefits, the schools and government simply raise money by raising taxes. Budgets are blueprints for spending plans. The revenue must meet the expenditures for balance. That’s where the skill of the board negotiators comes in. Examining every single expenditure and revenue line item must be done.

Local sources including property and earned income tax, local services tax and real estate transfer tax make up $21 million of the proposed budget. State reimbursement at over $14 million and federal assistance is at $405,700. Those projections mean the preliminary budget has a multimillion dollar deficit.

The board will not pass a final plan until June. The state must grant an exemption to raise property taxes more than 3.1 percent. The voters could be voting on the budget proposal in the May primary.

Candidates began circulating nominating petitions last week until March 7, 2017. Municipal and School Board offices are on the ballot this year. Township Supervisors generally run for 6-year terms and Borough Council persons have 4-year terms. Crestwood School Directors run for 4-year terms. Other offices on the ballot include tax collector, auditor, and constable.

Winter and Movies

We are reminded every year of the Academy awards and whether you go to the movies or not, there is always a lot of discussion about the nominees. This year I have only seen one of the nominees. La La Land is a delicious spectacle of old fashioned movie color with a sweet love story, some singing and dancing, and a look back to simpler times. I have always been a musical movie fan and we really don’t see many of them these days. The lead actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are two of my favorites. For a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon an escape to a beautiful movie is well worth the price of admission. I am hoping for the best for La La Land at the awards show this Sunday February 26.

Another fun wintertime activity is to revisit classic television. Charlie and I are at the end of Season 2 of Breaking Bad, the story of a high school chemistry teacher who enters into the drug crime world cooking and selling perfect methamphetamine as he battles cancer and tries to provide for his family. Filmed in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico, where my daughter Amy Grubert and her husband Chris Wolpert formerly lived, the desert cinematography is amazing. Breaking Bad does not glorify the crimes of Walter White and his former student Jessie Pinkman. The criminals are always on the run just steps ahead of the DEA, Walt’s smart brother-in-law Hank. The show is not an affirmation for a life of crime. It is just smart entertainment.

Trump Agenda

President Donald Trump continues to rally his supporters and move forward with keeping campaign promises as he slowly gets his cabinet confirmed. There has been plenty of gridlock in Congress for the past 16 years with presidents from both parties. Trump’s refrain “Fake News” is heard around the clock.

I have been writing the Mountaintop news for more than 36 years since 1980. I always strove to print factual stories on page 1 and to leave the editorial page to opinions.

I regularly read the Wilkes Barre daily newspapers and up until November 2016, New York Times and The Washington Post online. Cable news is another option. The leaders in our industry, which happen to be located in the dense population centers of New York, Washington D. C. and Los Angeles, have chosen to bash the president with inflammatory negative stories. I can no longer watch the main cable news networks. CNN, MSNBC, and their network counterparts NBC, ABC, and CBS and expect any balanced reporting at all. Trump is the devil incarnate.

Meanwhile, the electorate who made Trump’s presidency a reality, Mountain Top and Pennsylvania are at the top of the list, is energized and excited about the president’s commitment to doing his job. Last week’s surprise press conference in the East Room of the White House rallied the correspondents and reporters to their duties in quick fashion. Many don’t like Trump, but they are doing their jobs by listening to him and we can all see how that goes. Those same reporters promote terms like “chaos” and “unhinged” in filing their reports. The American people can make up their own minds without endless editorializing.

By the way, Crestwood School District will get a total of $405,700 in Federal money for their new school budget. That small amount is just a shade over 1 percent of the total $38.5 million Crestwood budget. I am looking forward to Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos working toward quality education for all children and as an advocate of school choice.