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Dover Area School District wants to petition courts to delay Washington Twp. secession one year

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Dover Area High School in Dover Township, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Dover Area School District officials said Tuesday they want to petition state courts to delay the secession of Washington Township for one year following news of major budget cuts linked to the transition. 

At a Dover school board meeting Tuesday night, board President Nathan Eifert said district leaders will meet with Northern York County School District officials on Wednesday to discuss a petition. Eifert said there are several unresolved issues that will take a long time to solve, and the current schedule makes the process needlessly challenging. 

"There are simply too many unknowns at this time," Eifert said. 

Northern York County Assistant Superintendent Jason Beals said during a virtual forum earlier this month that the district would consider a petition following a flood of concerns from Washington Township parents about the transition. 

Under the current schedule, 218 Dover students residing in Washington Township will join the Northern York County School District on July 1, according to a court order. Matt Ulmer, Dover Area's chief financial and operations officer,  said the move would result in about $3.2 million in revenue losses for the district. 

In a presentation Ulmer gave to the board Tuesday, he said the secession would create a $4.2 million loss in local revenues but also bring about $970,000 in savings from items including cyber charter school tuition and staff salaries. Ulmer said district officials are not planning to lay off any staff members but instead may eliminate some positions for which the current employees are retiring. 

Earlier this month, Northern York County officials projected that Washington Township families would bring an additional $3.4 million to their district. 

More:Northern York officials project budget increases after Washington Twp. students enroll

More:Washington Twp. parents vent about move to Northern school district

Jennifer Leppo, Dover Area's assistant business manager, said the district is also looking at a $1.5 million deficit at the end of the 2020-21 budget year, accounting for rising costs through the COVID-19 pandemic, such as increased custodial services and cyber charter enrollment. The $1.5 million does not include the losses from the Washington Township secession. 

For the Dover district's preliminary 2021-22 budget, which would include the Washington Township secession, Leppo said the deficit is expected to increase to about $4.8 million. 

Leppo said the preliminary budget includes a 1.22% tax increase as a means to make up some of the revenue losses. The increase would raise the average resident's annual bill by $35, she said. The board is scheduled to approve the final 2021-22 budget in May or June.