Tonight is an important TESD Budget Workshop — 7:30 PM, auditorium at Conestoga High School. Yesterday, I posted the agenda and materials for review. This is our school district and our taxpayer dollars . . . how do you want your dollars spent and how do we fund the district deficit?
There have been many budget-related comments today on Community Matters — several of which were focused on EIT. For further discussion, below is a commentary received from Ray Clarke. In the past, Ray has offered his opinion on EIT but has updated his remarks based on TESD’s current 2010-11 budget information. Here are Ray’s comments — let’s use this as a starting point for discussion:
I’d like to get away from history (except as a guide to the future) and ponder what needs to be done to secure our kids’ education going forward. I think much of the evidence supports John’s advocacy of an EIT. I’ve posted it here before but here goes again, starting with updated budget numbers:
1. After one round of proposed program changes that have been vehemently opposed by many in the community, plus a 2.9% property tax increase, the school district will still be in the hole by $3 million in 2010/11, $8 million in 2011/12. (Note that it is relatively easy to squeeze expenses for just one year…..). No official word from Tredyffrin yet, but the township will need to fund contracted compensation increases next year, too.
2. A 1% EIT would raise $9 million for both Tredyffrin township and school district, of which $2.7 million is already paid by residents and $2 million would be paid by non-residents. (Easttown would also have to implement the tax.)
3. Perhaps a 2010 Tax Study Commission would ask a question like: “Would you prefer that property taxes increase 15% for all, or that the township residents not now paying a 1% EIT do so and the township gets a 1 for 1 match, worth $4.7 million a year now and increasing with inflation?” Might there be a different answer than to 2007’s question, which referenced only shifting taxes from property to income?
4. There will be in 2011 a county-wide mechanism to collect an EIT at low cost for all the other townships with this tax.
5. An EIT diversifies the tax base among all income earners and wealth holders.
6. The TSC stated that: “Had we been presented with compelling funding needs by the school board that could not be satisfied by the present system we may well have endorsed a change in the manner in which our schools are funded.”
So, given that …
– There is no willingness by the TEEA to consider deferring accelerating teacher salary increases (6.9% in 2009/10 over 2008/9, and more contracted each year until 2011/12) and sharing health benefit cost increases
– We need to fund $4 million a year in replacement capital and the capital fund is running dry
– There is no willingness to unlock capital tied up in unproductive properties (note: enrollment is projected to decline in the short and medium term)
– $2 million of the $4 million proposed expense savings have only a one time impact
…it seems to me that the need is indeed compelling. Whatever views one might have of past School Boards, it seems to me that the current one has to operate in a very different economic environment and that their actions should reflect that.