Three of the nine members of Crawford Central School Board did not attend Monday’s meeting to approve the 2019-2020 budget.
That’s one-third of board who missed what we believe is the most important meeting of the year. It doesn't sit well with us to see our elected leaders absent when it comes time to approve what is being done with our tax dollars.
The budget meeting isn’t something that should catch a school board member off guard. School boards all across the Pennsylvania — not just in Crawford Central — are under the same state-mandated rules to approve a budget by June 30.
We’re guessing no board member should have been surprised by the meeting date or that a budget vote would have taken place. The entire year of school board meetings are posted on the district’s website, and the budget process is practically an annual rite of spring.
Sure, the process can be lengthy, sometimes taking several months to hash out and negotiate. And we're certain lots of hours were spent crunching the numbers before the budget arrived for its final approval on Monday.
Not only is it a disservice to the residents and taxpayers of the school district to miss the meeting, it also is a slap in the face to those who spent all those countless hours putting the budget together. And it definitely doesn't set a good example for students who get penalized for missing school or not meeting deadlines for assignments or tests.
So where were Katrina Proctor, Delwood Smith and Glenn Tuttle on Monday night?
Superintendent Tom Washington simply said they were “away” during the meeting and likely would not be available if the board tried to schedule another meeting by the June 30 deadline.
We reached out to the three for an explanation and did not hear back. We hope they had a good reason for missing such an important meeting.
If they knew they would not be able to attend the meeting — and, for us, it appeared Washington seemed to have an idea — the three should have sent word to the board and have it announced why they couldn't be there.
Having Proctor, Smith and Tuttle absent became an issue when the six members who did attend the meeting tried to approve the $63.6 million budget.
On the table was a tax hike of 0.49 mills for district residents in Crawford County. The board voted 4-2 to approve the budget, only to have attorney Tim Sennett explain that state law requires that budgets and tax levies be approved by a majority of the entire board, not just those present. That meant five votes were needed from the six board members present.
The winning no-tax-increase compromise only came after several votes that unexpectedly failed, followed by several votes to reconsider those votes and finally one vote to reconsider a previous vote that had passed.
All told, it took 10 attempts to pass the budget.
Needless to say, Monday night's meeting made the board appear disorganized, to say the least.
Let us be clear and say that we're grateful for those who serve on Crawford Central and all school boards. Serving is a volunteer position and, at times, can be thankless.
However, it also requires a commitment. The taxpayers and residents of the district deserve that much.
And let us also be clear that we are not advocating for the tax hike that likely would have passed had a some or all three members attended. In May, Proctor and Smith voted in favor of a preliminary budget that featured a tax increase, while Tuttle voted against it.
What we expect is that all school board members take their duties seriously and make attending important meetings like approving the budget a priority.
By choosing to run for public office, a commitment to vote on big issues like raising taxes comes with the territory. If an official doesn't have the stomach for such a vote or is unable to commit to the duties of their office, maybe they should take some time to re-evaluate serving as a public official.