11 Hempfield School Board candidates vie for 5 open seats | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

11 Hempfield School Board candidates vie for 5 open seats

Megan Tomasic
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary16-010319
Submitted
Top: Roccie Waldron, Debra naeger, Paul Adams, Vince DeAugustine Middle: Michael Alfery, Richard Smith, Paul Berginc Bottom: Jennifer Bretz, David Iwig, Tony Bompiani, Jeanne Smith
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary12-010319
Submitted
Richard Smith
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary07-010319
Submitted
Debra Naeger
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary15-010319
Submitted
Vince DeAugustine
1159940_web1_JenniferBretz
Submitted
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary10-010319
Submitted
Paul Adams
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary11-010319
Submitted
Paul Berginc
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary09-010319
Submitted
Michael Alfery
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary06-010319
Submitted
David Iwig
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary14-010319
Submitted
Tony Bompiani
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary13-010319
Submitted
Roccie Waldron
1159940_web1_gtr-Hempschoolprimary08-010319
Submitted
Jeanne Smith

Hempfield Area School Board candidates have one thought ahead of Tuesday’s primary — property taxes.

With 11 people vying for five empty seats, candidates are looking to make changes to the board, increase security at schools and improve the budget that has sent property taxes on the rise over the last seven years.

“The school board is always facing a budget problem and seeking more money to fill the gap,” said Roccie Waldron, 33, who cross-filed. “This coupled with a shrinking community could be a recipe for disaster if it is not managed properly.”

Those taxes, said Debra Naeger, 48, who also cross-filed, are burdening seniors living on fixed incomes. She added cyber school costs account for more than 2% of the district’s budget, money that could be used for capital improvements.

Taxes have risen an average of 2.21 mills annually since the 2014-15 school year. School board members seemingly put a stop to the pattern Monday when they approved a preliminary $98.1 million budget for the 2019-20 school year that did not include a tax hike, although it would cut six positions.

“The system is a mess,” said Tony Bompiani, 65, a cross-filed candidate and former school board member. “Way too little help from the state, way too many unfunded mandates from the state, spot assessments, cyber school tuition unfairly paid through our budget with no proof of cost.”

Incumbent David Iwig, 50, refuted what several candidates referred to as spot assessments, saying houses involved in property tax assessments are typically new and expensive homes that are paying taxes up to 70% lower than what other residents have paid.

“So an issue is Westmoreland County has not had a tax reassessment for 47 years,” he said. “That is a long time. There are a number of severely miss-assessed houses in our district. Some of them are over-assessed and some of them are under-assessed.”

Incumbent Paul Adams, 49, said assessments impacted two homes last year.

Adams agreed that increasing property taxes are an issue, specifically for people on fixed incomes, adding that “property taxes are a burden.”

But several candidates agreed on increasing school safety, not only through improving schools but through counselors.

“Research shows that having increased number of school psychologists and counselors also works to proactively reduce threats and enhance the learning environment, so there is still work to be done,” Iwig said. “We need to reverse the trend of reducing these professionals in our schools.”

Incumbent Jeanne Smith, 70, agreed, adding that both academic and emotional needs of students need to be met and that learning environments should be safe and secure.

Republican candidate Paul Berginc, 71, said his biggest goal if elected is to review school security procedures.

For many, that boils down to a new high school — with cross-filed candidate Vince DeAugustine, 40, Smith and Adams acknowledging a deteriorating school.

Others want to focus mainly on students, improving sports and academics.

“I’m committed to expand the focus on vocational training and emphasize that every student should graduate with marketable skills that can be the foundation of a career and a means for college-bound students to avoid amassing college debt,” said cross-filed candidate Jennifer Bretz, 46.

Richard Smith, 45, said he wants to improve programs that help students with reading so they are not only passing, but excelling.

“I’m running to remove politics from sports and the athletic department, be a voice for students, teachers and taxpayers, update aging buildings and classrooms, spend valuable resources on students, end targeted assessment of property owners, keep taxes low and improve school security,” said cross-filed candidate Mike Alfery, 49.

DeAugustine added, “My platform is not about winning an election. My platform is about helping Hempfield become the best place to live, the best place to work, and the best overall district.”

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.