MILTON — Tuesday’s municipal election features six candidates vying for four contested seats on the Milton Area School District school board.
Three candidates are on the ballot for two seats representing Region 3. Those candidates are incumbent Republican Eric Moser, Republican Andrew Frederick and Democrat Tracy Bruno.
They are seeking to fill seats currently held by Moser and board President David Edinger, who is not seeking re-election.
In Region 2, three candidates are also on the ballot for two seats. The candidates are Incumbent Republican Christine Rantz, Democrat J. Blue Moser and Lindsay Kessler, whose name appears on the ballot as both a Republican and a Democrat.
They are seeking to fill seats currently held by Rantz and Kelly Everitt, who is not seeking re-election.
Kenneth Snyder, a Republican, is uncontested in a race to fill a seat representing Region 1 on the board. That seat is currently held by Andrew McNeal, who is not seeking re-election.
Moser was appointed to fill a seat on the board last year, following the resignation of Robert Seebold.
Moser said he joined the board in order to give back to the community.
“Milton has been my family’s home for five generations,” he said. “I hope my (four) kids continue to live here. Tax dollars are a big part of what the farm (I operate) pay... I felt I should get involved to help protect myself and to try to keep things moving forward.”
Moser is not in favor of the district raising taxes just to “stockpile money.”
“A slight increase is needed to balance the budget,” he said. “I’m OK with that. I look at it as if it’s my own money, because it is. It’s my tax dollars... If the books are balanced at the end of the year, that’s a good thing.”
School safety is also a priority for Moser.
“I know there’s some vestibules that need secured,” Moser said. “We should probably put some money into that.”
He said the district can incur $20 to $25 million in new borrowing without impacting taxpayers, due to the restructuring of debt. He is not in favor of borrowing $30 million.
Moser believes some renovation projects in the district are needed, and noted the board recently approved a $10 million renovation of Baugher Elementary School. The board is also looking to cut the costs of a $7.8 million stadium renovation project, which has been approved.
“(Baugher elementary) hasn’t been touched since it was built and that (renovation project) was needed,” Moser said.
He also said the football field has not been renovated in years.
“If (a new stadium) is going to last 75 years and we have to do it eventually, the way the debt service is looking, now is the time to do it,” Moser said. “I don’t want to build an exorbitant complex we don’t need.”
Like Moser, it’s community roots which are inspiring Frederick to seek a seat on the board.
“I have two children, a third one on the way, that are going to grow up through the Milton Area School District,” Frederick said. “I want to make it the best district for them.”
He believes the district needs to develop a strategic plan, looking three, five and 10 years down the road. He would like it to encompass every component in the district, including the budget, academics and athletics.
“That’s a business approach the board hasn’t previously taken,” said Frederick, who works for Little League International. “That’s something I could help to institute.”
He also believes the current board has “public relations issues” and needs to be more transparent.
“That will go a long ways to getting the public behind the board,” Frederick said. “They could’ve made the decisions they’ve made a little better.”
Like Moser and Frederick, Bruno also points to her community roots as driving her to seek a seat on the board. She would also like the incoming board to take a look at leadership within the district.
The owner of Outer Image Salon in Milton, Bruno decided to run for a board after her husband Gene retired from a 34-year teaching career in the district.
She felt it would’ve been a conflict of interest if she sought a board seat while he was still employed there.
“Some of the events that have happened over the last year-and-a-half truly inspired me to run,” Bruno said. “The mold issue, some of the expenses that I was hearing that there was no explanation for.”
The start of the 2018-2019 school year was delayed after the district’s five buildings each experienced mold and high-humidity issues. Each of the buildings underwent extensive remediation.
Bruno feels she would be an asset in building the district’s budget.
“I’ve run a business for 30 years... I built a budget from the ground up,” she said. “I know how to manage money.”
In addition to striving for fiscal responsibility, Bruno believes the district’s administrative personnel need to be evaluated.
“The leadership in the school is very questionable right now,” she said. “It starts from the top... This is not a personal thing. This is because I really care.”
She also listed the safety of the students as a concern.
All three Region 3 candidates are vowing to listen to their constituents and the school community at large if elected.
“Our faculty and staff, they need to have a voice,” Bruno said. “I feel, sometimes, their voice is not heard. I want to be that voice for them. I want them to know that they can come to us and say ‘this should be done.’”
She added that employees should be given input on renovations taking place in the district.
Frederick said he has spoken with a number of community members since launching his campaign.
“I’ve gotten myself out there to speak with people and hear their concerns, their hopes for the district,” he said. “I don’t want that to end. I want that, as a priority, to continue the conversation with the public.”
Moser also believes in transparency.
“If anybody has any questions, they can ask me,” he said.
In the race to fill the Region 1 seats, Rantz said she is passionate about her desire to continue serving on the board. She has served for 16 years.
“I’m passionate about public education and I will continue to push for excellence,” she said. “I believe we need to improve our buildings and our athletic facilities for the benefit of all of our students and our community.”
Like Moser, she said low interest rates and a restructuring of district debt make this the perfect time for the district to borrow money to carry out renovation projects.
“I think people fear that their taxes are going to go way up,” Rantz said. “That’s not the case... The timing is right.”
She also said the district needs to continue to focus on its high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.
“I would like to see us encourage more of our students go into the trades,” Rantz said. “We are there, we are growing (the program).”
She pointed to the addition of agriculture and criminal justice programs to the CTE curriculum as examples of how the program is growing.
“Student participation is increasing each year and there is (student) retention,” Ratnz said. “(Our program is) rated very highly.”
Messages left at numbers provided by the Northumberland County Elections Office for Kessler and J. Blue Moser were not returned as of press time.