I have received further comments from Ray Clarke concerning the TESD Finance Committee Meeting last night which I’m glad to post. Again, thank you Ray for keeping us in the loop!
Further Comments from Ray Clarke re TESD Finance Committee Meeting:
- Much discussion of appealing assessments. Maybe they miss the point that the reason property owners are getting their assessments lowered is that “they are fed up and can’t take it any more”? 53% increase in school tax rate in the last 10 years – way above inflation.
- In the last month, the 2010/11 “gap” increased from <$8 million to the current $9.2 million. A teacher benefit switch (next point) was one reason. The other was a realization of the impact of the teachers moving across (more longevity) and down (more credits) the salary matrix. (I may have switched Across and Down)
- Big drivers of the current year benefit cost increase: Bad claims experience elsewhere in the group (that was lauded as such a great deal last year), and teachers switching from cheaper to more expensive plans. Note: Cost to TESD for a family plan $15,000, of which the employee pays $960.
- There seemed to be little detail on ideas to close this year’s deficit – Overall the financial reporting is well-intentioned, but it sure is difficult to follow. The big problem, from what a business would be used to, is that there is no cycling of the budget by month, so it’s really hard to know how they are doing by looking at the reports. What’s presented depends on how much they decide to “encumber” (set aside for the remainder of the year). I’m sure that is driven by municipal accounting rules, but they could make it easier for us to know what’s going on!
- Teachers did offer an early retirement deal: pay off senior teachers with $30,000 so that the schools can hire cheaper newer teachers. The admin thinks that would be a saving – but not in Year 1, I’d think, and at what cost to the program? Didn’t work for Circuit City, did it?
- Eliminating FLES saves $378,000/year.
- Example of flawed thinking: Claimed saving of $84,000 from closing the print shop, but this is just salary etc. savings, not net of the replacement cost for contracted printing!
- Let’s not under-estimate the fights there will be over some proposed cuts – 7th and 8th grade program changes, athletic programs, club sports, ….
- Another note: the request for exceptions to Act 1 to get the additional 3.7% increase is just that – a request, and based on very specific costs. May not be approved by the state (but I can’t imagine it won’t be)
- And here’s something: if the exceptions are approved or denied, by March 19th the district has to submit a referendum question seeking voter approval, for inclusion on the primary ballot on May 18. So, an opportunity for debate!
In general, if citizens are interested, there is an opportunity to weigh in – will anyone take the trouble? You can help!
There’s much more to be understood with the Bond issue question – possibly financial engineering can provide some short term help?
The next Finance Committee meeting has the bond issue on the agenda (no time to discuss last night …..) and is set for 1/4/2010 (same as BOS), just before a special TESD board meeting to discuss the budget.
Thanks again Ray for your comments. Mike (of Berwyn) you sent in a comment which I posted. As another person who attended last night’s meeting, what is your take on the meeting? Any further comments in regards to Ray’s assessment of last night?