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A recent move by Upper Allen Township to renegotiate its level of support through Mechanicsburg area's Joint Recreation Committee Agreement alarmed Mechanicsburg Area School District officials who saw the termination of the current agreement as a potential problem for its recreation programming.

School district officials discussed the issue Tuesday night at the Mechanicsburg Area School District school board meeting. Parks and Recreation Director Tonya Brown and district CFO Gregory Longwell introduced the matter for consideration, and Longwell told the school board that the district received a recent notice from the township about its vote in September to terminate the agreement.

Upper Allen Township officials Thursday provided the letter they sent to the school district and copied to Mechanicsburg Borough and Shiremanstown Borough, the other members of the joint agreement. The letter relayed that the commissioners voted unanimously on Sept. 18 to terminate the agreement, effective June 30, 2020, though it is open to negotiating alternative funding options.

“We just have to determine the implications of this on the recreation program and the programs that serve students and the community. So we have to determine what (Upper Allen) wants to do. Fifty-thousand dollars has significant ramifications,” Longwell said, referring to the township’s monetary contribution to the program in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The township noted in the letter that it does not want to participate in the agreement as it is currently structured for this cycle, which runs through June 30, 2020. Assistant Upper Allen Township Manager Scott Fraser said Thursday that alternative funding options had been discussed in a previous meeting with the school district.

Mechanicsburg Area School District officials said Tuesday night they will continue to review options in the next several weeks before presenting a recommendation for action to the school board early in 2020.

“This is a relationship built on trust and when that trust starts to erode, I think that’s where we’re at now,” district Superintendent Mark Leidy said Tuesday about the recreation agreement between the municipalities and the school district. “We can work things out, but it can’t be a one-sided conversation. I promise you as a superintendent that I want to do everything we can to keep the program for the kids.”

Joint agreement

According to the township, the current joint agreement expired on June 30, but the township will continue to support the program at its current level through June 30, 2020. The township's goal is to negotiate a new agreement before June 30, 2020.

Under the 2018-2019 agreement, Upper Allen Township contributed $57,451 to the department, while Mechanicsburg Borough contributed $25,547 and Shiremanstown contributed $3,959. The school district covers the other costs of programming and runs the recreation department.

Though the township wants to negotiate its involvement, it noted in a statement on Thursday that it does not want to pull out of the recreation department entirely.

"We know that many of our residents participate and enjoy the activities offered by the Mechanicsburg Area Parks & Recreation Department, and we want to see it continue," the statement reads.

The township said its decision to renegotiate is based on how much it has been contributing and what the township has received out of the agreement over the years. The township argued in its news release that when the joint agreement was created almost 50 years ago the recreation department ran more activities and coordinated the use of township park facilities and recreational equipment.

"For at least the past 10 years, however, we have managed our fields in-house," the township said in its news release Thursday.

Upper Allen officials also said that despite the township's contributions, it has no say in what activities are offered, how the programs are run or the way the participation fees for township residents are determined.

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"Though the agreement states all parties should be involved in decisions that affect the programs, we have not always been included," the township said. "Moving forward, we believe it is appropriate to recognize that this is the school district's program and support it as we do with other community organizations, such as the Simpson Library or Meals on Wheels. We envision negotiating a fair level of support based on our township's population and the services we receive."

The township said it is looking forward to discussing the matter with the school district to reach an agreement that would avoid disruptions to classes and activities for the township's residents and children.

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Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include Upper Allen Township's response sent as a news release it issued Thursday.

Posted Wednesday on Cumberlink:

Mechanicsburg Area School District officials said they’re in the process of figuring out "the next step" after Upper Allen Township commissioners last month terminated the township's participation from Mechanicsburg Area Parks and Recreation.

Parks and Recreation director Tonya Brown and Gregory Longwell, the school district’s director of business operations, introduced the matter for consideration at a Mechanicsburg school board meeting on Tuesday night.

For nearly 50 years, the school district has worked cooperatively with Upper Allen Township and Mechanicsburg and Shiremanstown boroughs “to offer diverse recreational opportunities for the entire community” within an area spanning more than 16 square miles and a total population of more than 23,000, according to the Parks and Recreation website.

On Sept. 18, however, Upper Allen Township commissioners voted to terminate participation in the Joint Recreation Agreement with the school district and the other municipalities against the recommendation of the township’s own parks and recreation department, Longwell said Tuesday.

Despite this, the township reportedly said in its termination notice to the school district that it was willing to discuss the possibility of a financial contribution to Mechanicsburg Parks and Recreation.

“We just have to determine the implications of this on the recreation program and the programs that serve students and the community. So we have to determine what (Upper Allen) wants to do. Fifty-thousand dollars has significant ramifications,” Longwell said, referring to the township’s monetary contribution to the program in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

In contrast, the Borough of Mechanicburg contributed $24,547 to the Parks and Recreation department during the same period, while Shiremanstown contributed $3,959, based on the borough's smaller population.

Upper Allen Township Board of Commissioners President Ken Martin said Wednesday the school district "left out a lot of facts" about the situation and the township would issue a news release in response in the next few days.

School district administrators said on Tuesday that they will "continue to review options" for Upper Allen’s termination of the agreement over the next several weeks to present a recommendation for action to the school board early next year.

“This is a relationship built on trust and when that trust starts to erode, I think that’s where we’re at now,” Leidy said about the recreation agreement between the municipalities and the school district. “We can work things out, but it can’t be a one-sided conversation. I promise you as a superintendent that I want to do everything we can to keep the program for the kids.”

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