TESD Finance Committee Meeting Last Night . . . Notes from Malvern Resident Ray Clarke

I attended the Board of Supervisors meeting last night — once again, reality TV was alive and well in Tredyffrin Township.  I will write about the BOS meeting later, presenting some of the highlights and, unfortunately lowlights of the evening.   As a result of attending the BOS meeting, I counted on my friend Ray Clarke to attend the school district’s Finance Committee Meeting.  Below are Ray’s notes from last night . . .

Moving to the TESD Finance Committee tonight, I must admit to much disappointment, as the past couple of months have brought little clarity and some regression.  Analysis seems to have stalled.

Of the $1.5 million in “Strategy #2” expense items, I think that fully 50% must be discounted, at least in part, because:
– The idea does not account for all associated costs or qualifications (eg not all JV and Varsity sports teams can be bussed together)
– There are difficulties with the concept (eg selling advertising for extra-curricular activities/events)
– The notion is fundamentally vague (eg reduce utility costs, reduce legal costs)
– And last but not least, the strategy is thought of as unfair to some employees.  Chairman Kevin Mahoney believes that the proposed salary freeze and adjustments for non-unionized staff are inequitable, and has asked for a rethink of the idea.  Estimated impact: $445,000.  Debbie Bookstaber took the position that taxpayers don’t have the money for these increases.  Note that in any event, these pay freeze strategies are noted in the written descriptions as “one time”, implying that the amount was to be made up in subsequent years anyway.

It is coming to be accepted that there will have to be a larger draw down of the fund balance than has been discussed so far – another $0.5 million at least is my guess.

Noteworthy discussion: general support (with some clarification needed) for a fee of $20 per extra-curricular activity for middle and high school students and for a $100/year parking fee for students (only) at CHS (up from $10).  These rates were thought to be low relative to other districts.  The process for converting to self-insurance for health care is moving ahead – it will be important to keep a close eye on utilization.

There was another bond issuance discussion.  The District is moving from funding capital projects from general funds (paid by past tax payers) to funding them from bond proceeds (to be repaid by future taxpayers).  By necessity really – the capital fund has just $1.7 million, and there are plans to spend $16.7 million over the next three years.  Now, the accounting rules let you capitalize the interest on the bonds for the first two years, so the day of reckoning can be pushed out even more.

All the more reason to actually move this discussion forward by:
a) quickly coming up with fully thought-through deficit reduction proposals for the upcoming year, and
b) presenting an accessible multi-year operating projection which includes:
 – Adding back all one time expense reductions
 – Adding all bond principal and interest costs
 – Consideration of the likely base level of capital spending and bond issuance strategy (Will the district spend $15 million in capital every three years?  Are there options?)
 – Adding a best guess of medium term strategies that save real dollars (eg the changes to the CHS program)
 – Adding the contracted increases in compensation and benefits costs

The size of the resulting multi-year deficit will show that it’s not going to be good enough to keep pushing off the discussion of all the options for both expenses and revenues.  Again, tonight there was no discussion of an EIT, beyond two pages handed out that detail the difference between Act 511 and Act 1.  My summary: only the former seems relevant, the Townships do not have to claim any of the revenue (but may), additional gaming revenue may allow TESD to claim some taxes paid to Philadelphia, and implementation would be subject to a voter referendum at a May primary, for earliest implementation on July 1, 2011.  There was no quantification of the impact.

To my mind, it’s time for the district to show that it truly has a grasp of the big picture, and move on from reducing $10,000 in landscaping expenses to addressing the fundamental problem of managing and funding escalating educational requirements and employee/capital costs, in a largely developed community and a non-bubble economy.

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  1. Great summary Ray, thank you.

    Was there any public discussion at the meeting? Was the meeting well attended?

    It seems based upon your report that the current school board is either incapable or unwilling to look at the totality of the situation.

    Mitigating a large portion of the deficit with one time deferrals is not a plan, it is a dishonest approach. Additionally, focusing on the minutiae, e.g. landscaping expenses, and ignoring the elephant in the room is foolish.

    So the question remains, is this board and administration unwilling, or incapable?

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Sorry, I should have mentioned attendance, etc. There were some 20-25 in the audience – few enough, in fact, that the next meeting will be back at the Admin offices. Which I hope will help participation; it’s easier to have a dialog when the committee is closer at hand. Last night, I had a list of issues stacking up as the Agenda rolled on and there was no way to get a word in before the next item was underway.

    There were a few community comments. One at the outset that I missed, but I think was advocating fiscal responsibility. There was a good question about the ESC and the projected $800,000 demolition cost, versus selling the building or having a private developer take it over or remediating it (which would be more than the $800K). The response is that this must be retained as the only school-sized property held by the district in the event more education facilities are ever needed. It might be worth running some scenarios that quantify the reasons for (eg all day kindergarten?), and likelihood of, actually needing another school and lay out the alternatives were the ESC not available. We could then assess the opportunity cost of the district sitting on all its vacant land at the ESC (and elsewhere).

    I think that the issue lies with the Administration as much as the Board. This is a good opportunity for the Superintendent to demonstrate the drive, results-orientation, leadership and vision expected of a CEO and fully substantiate why he is so well-compensated.

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  2. Good job Ray – Thanks..
    My thought is that the Board is both unwilling and incapable – and just shows that the overwhelming majority of the members have never run a small business, including the seasoned professional medical members.
    I go back to to the 7.5 million dollar move from Berwyn to West Valley Road for the Admin folks and the spin put out by the Board and the reasons “why”. Yet the building in Berwyn still stands and in fact has been used by humans for many months after moving the staff. I could go on and on – including the compensation package for the Superintendent that is in excess of 340,000.
    I believe that small business owners are just to busy to volunteer to serve – but equally at fault is the general public who needs to be involved and vocal and stop being like a lamb in the flock trusting that the Board knows what it is doing.

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  3. I attended the meeting last night, as well. My guess is there were 20-25 in the audience, at least 5 of which I recognized as teachers or building principals.

    The point was made by the administration that these strategies were targeted at areas of the budget that will not impact the core educational program. The Board questioned the expense reduction strategies extensively and thoughtfully, for at least an hour. Therefore, many of the public’s questions were answered – three or four community members/parents spoke during the public comment period.

    It looks like the ’09-10 year will come in with both revenues and expenses less than expected, but balanced. Looking ahead, unlike some others, the administration and the Board seem to realize that no amount of planning will offer perfect foresight and therefore they also place a priority on reacting to the world as it is, not as they wish it was. Some may dismiss the attention to $10,000 expense items, but the cost cut opportunities are very limited in a budget where roughly 70% of the costs are in contracted personnel – and those $10-30,000 items added up to several hundred thousand dollars. They continue to focus on preserving the quality of the educational program, while balancing the interests of the taxpayers. Frankly, if you look at the performance of the leadership, they have a track record of delivering an exceptional educational “product” at a very reasonable cost – I expect that to continue.

    Papadick, the ESC was discussed briefly by Dr. Motel, head of the Board’s Facilities Committee. It is currently being used for some storage and will be shuttered and then leveled in the next year or so. The building has an antiquated heating system and major lead and asbestos issues – in order to bring it up to today’s standards, would require an investment of about $7mm and would obviously use the existing site. They have chosen to clear the site, which also provides a future option for a new school, if enrollment growth requires.

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  4. It’s so easy to criticize people – even those who volunteer a huge chunk of their time, immerse themselves in a number of complex issues and are impassioned advocates for our schools.

    I attended last night’s meeting as well. Though I think Ray’s worries about the long-term implications of this board’s decisions are valid, I have more confidence in their decision-making process. I trust that they are considering all of the options and carefully reducing and shifting costs in a way that will not negatively impact the educational process.

    At some point, barring no increase in the state’s contribution to PSERS, TESD will be faced with draconian cuts as well as significant tax increases. Teachers’ contract negotiations are two years away. But with time constraints and incomplete information, decisions have to be made now.

    I was disappointed that Mr, Mahoney deferred any discussion of an EIT, but he is correct that it would have no impact on the current budget, which needs to be finished and presented for a preliminary vote at next month’s SB meeting. Clearly, EIT will be a matter for serious discussion at some not-too-distant point.

    Ray’s concern about the fuzzy nature of the final group of proposed budget cuts is understandable. And more will need to be fleshed out in the coming months – especially to implement cuts which involve marketing and advertising school facilities for rental, and to look more closely at the impact of these final cuts on student services.

    However, unlike Malvern Republican and Papadick, I support the decisions of this board and the degree to which they have collaborated with the administration and listened to the community’s concerns.

    To those who are free with their criticism I ask:

    1) Are you able and willing to put in the time our school board members do? SB members devote 25-30 hours a week to this job- in addition to their day jobs. And they bring a variety of professional experiences to it including financial management, related legal experience, child development, and educational administration.

    2) Do you believe you could do a better job? Then run for School Board next year.

    [Reply]

    Malvern Republican Reply:

    I understand and appreciate your points Kate, and I do not for a moment dismiss the tremendous time commitment that is made by the members of the TESB. In fact, I appreciate greatly the services of the board and the administration.

    After hearing and reading additional impressions of the meeting I can plainly see that my line of questioning based solely on the first report was too strong. To be clear though, these were framed as questions, not indictments of anyone. Too strong, and my mistake nonetheless.

    I am still concerned that the budget focus appears to remain mainly near term based upon the reports of those who attended the meeting. I am very concerned at the prospect of deep program cuts and/or significant tax increases down the road, and feel that this risk could be exacerbated by too short of a focus in this current budget cycle – even if the state does increase PSER’s contributions in the future.

    I too would like to hear and see an EIT discussion, I do not accept that the consideration of future EIT has no bearing on this budget cycle. This budget will be balanced partly upon deferrals and partly upon the fund balance. Without a focus shift, and some longer term clarity and solutions, it appears that this budget will exist in an unsustainable place.

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  5. Kate
    I appreciate your stepping up to remind people that criticism is easy — the job is hard. As a former board member, I cannot begin to fathom the efforts that this board is tasked with to try to address this budget problem. There are a good many decisions they have made that I do not agree with, but what I know for sure is that the decisions were not based on any of them being unwilling or unable. There clearly are many, many ways to address this budget — and while it is reasonable to want and expect a long term focus while undertaking this effort, the realities are quite short term — a budget that needs to be passed and a program of studies that needs to be certified and offered for next year — and all the staffing and program assessments that go with that. Continually harping on whatever the readers’ pet peeves are will not solve the problem — and I concur that anyone who believes they could (and would!) do a better job should 1) attend more meetings to truly understand the complexities and 2) run for the board. The Board of School Directors is only as competent as the people you elect. Demand more from candidates than “I will protect the quality of education in a fiscally sound manner” == but also remember — having all the answers usually means you don’t have all the information. As the answers really aren’t all that clear.
    Thanks to this board for their effort — and here’s to the community stepping up and examining what we are willing to pay for whta we are demanding of our school system.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Yes, there is a short term need, but should we not be further along in fleshing out the options for that short term, which have been sitting on a piece of paper for two months? The issues raised are not surprising.

    And it’s not unreasonable to expect follow through on the stated commitment to consider the long term impact of the proposals. The EU taxpayers are balking over bailing out Greece without some understanding of the long term plan to balance that country’s budget, and the taxpayers of Tredyffrin/Easttown deserve nothing less for what they pay to management.

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  6. I attended the finance meeting. The discussion of raises was interesting. It came out that teachers are getting a more than 5% raise every year of the contract, and other employees think it would be unfair if they don’t receive the same raise.

    I think the unfair thing is that the public is stuck paying for 5% raises for teachers even as the district faces major budget shortfalls.

    The claim that non-union employees are being treated unfairly when they don’t get the same raises the union did sounds hollow to me.

    It’s important to note that non-contract employees include high-paid administrators as well as secretaries and other lower-paid jobs. This group did receive raises over 4% last year as unfortunately these were committed to before the economic crash. It is a shame that the union contract cannot be changed to reduce raises due to the changed economic situation, but that does not mean that everyone- including administrators making over 6 figures- is entitled to a guaranteed raise every year even as the district is forced to cut programs and raise taxes.

    I did not get the sense that Debbie Bookstaber completely opposed discussing raises, but she was asking for them to be viewed from a “market” perspective rather than as an automatic entitlement. She pointed out that non-government workers are not receiving raises and that seniors on social security are not receiving a cost of living increase. While raises are good for morale, the claim that employees would leave if they did not receive them is only true is a market survey shows that other employers pay more and are hiring. She referenced her experience as a business owner and hiring manager.

    There are definitely good points on both sides. Kevin Mahoney, who is a CFO of Penn Health, pointed out that there are some custodians who would receive more money if they weren’t supervisors since becoming a supervisor removes them from a union. Kevin is 100% right. I agree that this is completely unfair. But we need to find a way to deal with this on a case-by-case basis rather than by giving all non-union employees a blanket raise every single year.

    Salary costs are out of control in the district, and do parents really want to see more services cut so that people making over 6 figures can get an additional pay increase? Shouldn’t salaries reflect market conditions?

    I was surprised to see that the board members started to discuss what size raises to give non-union employees as if it were a done deal. Numbers like 1-2% instead of 4.5% were discussed. No one seemed to question the fact that 4.5% is an outrageous number to have as a starting point given the economy. Why aren’t the board members questioning this? How are we supposed to get spending under control if the Board can’t even freeze pay increases?

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    It’s hardly new news that union salaries bump up against management. I remember half a century ago in another country my father staying in the hourly workforce for just that reason.

    Some context re the raises: the overall matrix may be going up 5%, but the impact for the average teacher and for the overall TESD budget is much more than that. Every year year of service moves the union member one rung down the matrix. So, assuming the members are equally distributed across the matrix and there’s no turnover, the total compensation next year will increase 8.6%. In 2011/12 the increase will be 10.7%.

    It is this built-in escalation that has been cited by the North Penn School Board as being unacceptable in today’s climate and as part of their willingness to accept the current strike. And of course, we know what Tredyffrin did to “longevity bonuses”.

    Voters in New Jersey have just made it very clear what they think about school district budgets that cut programs and raise taxes to fund increased union compensation.

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  7. FYI on the ESC:

    I believe Pete Motel and Facilities did a study that showed enrollment trends and whether another school building could be needed. There is also the potential that the State or Federal government could require full-day kindergarten or something that could impact land-needed.

    The Board has been very careful not to build new buildings, but there will come a time when they cannot keep repurposing large group rooms into classrooms or claiming space from courtyards.

    Do you propose that they sell the ESC? In that case, where would they get the land when/if they need to build a school? There are very few open spaces left in T/E, and a school requires at least 15 acres. Would you propose they take it via eminent domain when they need land?

    Given the cost of land and the difficulty of finding 15 acres at an affordable price without open space restrictions, I think you could argue that it would be very irresponsible to sell the ESC land.

    Ideally, the board would find a way to rent the space…but the building was unsafe and could not be rented. But I do not think selling the land would be in the long-term interests of the district. If the Board sold the ESC, they could look like heroes for “saving” the district money…but they’d create a big problem for future boards.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    So, my question is, what are the possible needs and their odds of happening, and what are the options to meet them?

    If there was a full-day kindergarten mandate, is there any way it would be met without building a new school at the ESC? My children had a few classes in a “mobile” classroom trucked in next to their Arlington, VA elementary school. I don’t think it hurt them. Maybe it even helped them to realize that it’s prudent to husband your resources.

    Maybe there’s no room to do that at existing schools, or there are absolutely no options to acquire other space. Maybe a thorough analysis of all the options has been done. That would be reassuring to see on the TESD web site.

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  8. Thanks for this background. The apparent logic behind needing to match raises is to keep the non-union people from unionizing…. or from people who are “management” from returning to the union. Is that true?
    Here’s the position I would take: no raises for non-contract employees — and the public pledge that the next contract for both groups – teachers and non-teachers — will have at least one year of a wage freeze. Collective bargaining holds us hostage — teachers threaten strikes because it doesn’t cost them a dime. The non-teaching group threaten strikes and then demand retroactive pay when they settle. This board does not have to contemplate labor relations for the future — they need to address survival now. How many custodians — making more as management or hourly with overtime — get a pension when they retire? The ones that work for TESD do. Likewise secretaries, health room people, all the teachers and administrators. Ask the TE bus drivers about hardline negotiating — oh wait — there aren’t any because it was all outsourced. Absent a study that proves that having our own employees instead of outsourcing is cheaper, then no raises. Now — bonuses for overtime accrued for management (snow removal etc) is another matter…but that’s based on reality, NOT hypotheticals about “making more hourly” since presumably overtime is extremely limited. People are losing their jobs….no raises this year. PLEASE don’t act like government — taxing authority should NOT expand your notion of a bottom line vs. revenue.

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  9. Township Reader- I agree with you 100%. My concern is that the Board members don’t seem to agree with you. Only Bookstaber questioned the raises. What’s up with that? Do you think the Board is afraid of looking mean? People should really watch that section of the meeting when it comes out on TV. It was an interesting look at board dynamics.

    Pattye- the BOS gets most of your attention, so I’m glad we have Ray covering the School Board! This is where more of our taxes go!

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    You are right that we are very lucky to have Ray Clarke’s help with the school district. His notes and comments on the District are invaluable and much appreciated!

    [Reply]

  10. There is absolutely no way that the district would or should ever give up the ESC land. There were two other schools in this district at one point (plus Berwyn Elementary) — the Strafford School and the Paoli School. Both buildings were sold for $500,000 each…since that time the TESD had to add countless rooms to elementary schools, moved the 5th grade into the middle school and still have repurposed large group areas, music areas, cafeterias etc. There are not fewer homes here than when we had the extra elementary schools. The Greens at Waynesborough were built without any requirement to provide land for future expansion of the schools. When Chesterbrook was planned/approved, the township carved out area designated for future school use. Easttown has lots of land that could be subdivided (with some legal effort for sure) and result in more homes still. Beaumont Elementary was built about 40 years ago when the land surrounding it was relatively barren compared to today — to handle the overflow from Devon Elementary due to the then “Devon Strafford” apartments. All this discussion about transit centers, higher density housing etc. means that the school district could be responsible for educating students we cannot even forecast will come. The Daylesford plans that ultimately were withdrawn could have forced a new school almost on its own.
    So folks — no selling the ESC land. The township has few enough fields — and I think it is fair to say that our community is not likely to move in the direction of fewer kids participating in sports….
    I agree that we have a right to expect longer term solutions to these budgetary problems, but I don’t see any entity that has electorate scrutiny functioning very well in these unprecedented (at least not since 1974 or 1929) economic times. When the pressure of the budget passes for this year, hopefully the people responsible will do some thoughtful planning for the future.

    [Reply]

  11. I regret that I haven’t been able to follow this budget process more closely. Unlike most school district employees I have recently had to work far more than 40 hours a week to stay competitive in my career and to maintain my income during the recession.

    However, on behalf of the many other T/E taxpayers I would like to offer the following observations:

    1. It sounds like the school board has not been doing its job. Taxpayers are a lot like a frog in a pot of water: The public school establishment has succeeded in turning up the heat slowly enough over recent years that we haven’t noticed that we’re about to get cooked. The school board is supposed to represent and adjudicate taxpayer interests with the public school establishment (unions, administrators, contractors, and anyone else who feeds at the trough filled by our tax dollars). The board is supposed to keep the taxpayer from getting cooked, but it is also supposed to communicate back to the taxpayers so that we can jump before it’s too late. It has gotten awfully late.

    2. Nevertheless, there is not a real budget “problem.” The budget has grown out of hand, but there is no structural deficit: The bulk of our school taxes are going to employee compensation that, were they fully informed, a strong majority of taxpayers would agree is unconscionably high. These taxpayers would like their representatives on the board to cut compensation (not countenance ongoing or further raises). When compensation is brought back to reasonable levels we will find that current tax rates are more than adequate to fund the T/E schools.

    Granted, this correction will probably be an uncomfortable process. After all, the public employees were ready to eat the taxpayer frog for dinner, and the school board is going to have to assume an uncomfortably adversarial relationship with the public employees. But the sooner we start the correction the easier it will be. If the unions refuse to renegotiate their contract before it expires that’s their right — and we have a fund balance precisely to cover this sort of temporary problem — but the board should let them know that the paycuts in the next contract will just have to be that much harsher to restore fiscal balance at a level of taxation the taxpayers find reasonable. Meanwhile, taxpayers and parents need to prepare themselves to weather teacher strikes. Finally, teachers who don’t want to work for compensation 10-20% lower than what they receive under their current luxurious contract should start looking for another job. Welcome to the real world.

    [Reply]

  12. Lysander,

    I am proud of you my son.

    You are 100% correct with your posting, but the unions will never allow a reduction so a tax increase in inevitable.

    In theory the board is at fault, but going against the unions is not possible.

    [Reply]

    Lysander Reply:

    Going against the unions is not possible?

    The taxpayers whom the unions have been brazenly plundering these past few years need only collectively declare, “Enough!”

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  13. Bids and Proposals
    May 14, 2010 BID NOTICE The Tredyffrin/Easttown School District requests sealed bids for the Demolition of 738 First Avenue, Berwyn, PA (a 2-story, 50,000 s.f, masonry building) for the 2010-2011 school year. Bids are to be received before 2:00 P.M., Friday, May 14, 2010, at the office of the Purchasing Department, Tredyffrin/Easttown School District, Administration Offices, 940 W. Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne, Pennsylvania 19087-1856, and will be opened at that time. The Board of School Directors reserves the right to reject any or all bids and to waive errors or technical defects in the bid or bid forms. Detailed specifications and requirements for bidding may be obtained with a $25.00 non-refundable deposit at Daley + Jalboot Architects, 2314 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, telephone 215-564-5222. A mandatory walk-through will be held on Tuesday, May 4, 2010, at 1:00 PM at 738 First Avenue, Berwyn, PA 19312. Fred Gordon, Purchasing Manager

    Appeared in: Daily Local News on Thursday, 04/22/2010

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Legal requirement for bid requests — advertising.

    [Reply]

  14. Going against the unions is very possible — and quite easy actually — if you are willing to endure a strike once or twice a year until a new contract is agreed to. Once they do their strike thing, the courts order them back to work to ensure that the school year meets legal requirements — and they work under their old contract. I’ve said several times before, so I apologize for those who have heard this — but teachers do not lose a dime when they strike. They are considered salaried employees, and working the school year entitles them to a full year of pay. So — the damage of strikes is to one entity only — THE KIDS. The North Penn Strike is an example of just how petty the union can be — and how destructive. Striking at this time of year interferes with state PSSA testing, and completely messes with kids taking AP courses, who do not have the luxury of extending the time to prepare for a test which happens on a nationally identified day. It affects the last day of school for students who have summer jobs, summer internships, summer school.
    The website Stop Teachers Strikes.org is specifically maintained to try to bring taxpayers around to recognizing that PA laws simply do not protect the constituents — students. Whatever benefits are associated with Union negotiating are imho mitigated by the leverage they use to improve their working conditions. People who don’t want to teach here are free to go elsewhere, free to do something else, free to wait out a strike. KNowing they won’t lose a dime by striking means they only do it to make a point — and current laws do not oblige districts to settle….

    I said earlier — the current board needs to stand up and say no. They need to freeze the pay of all workers and assure those who are under contract that they will not negotiate raises in the next contract — so the non-union employees are not getting mistreated. Keeping supervisors as non-union is simple enough to the extent that overtime for that person can be accumulated as comp time which can result in a bonus based on productivity. The district’s budget strategies state they will reduce overtime by 20% and suggest that means a $70K savings. That means that they expect to spend $280K in overtime….sounds to me like they are understaffed….as that kind of cost theoretically represents 13,000 overtime hours at a base salary of $15 ($22.50 overtime).
    I agree with Lysander’s boiling frog analysis…and also believe that taxpayers need to come to terms with what we expect from our school district. Parents move here knowing what they expect — and escrow taxes as part of their cost of home ownership. As has been shown here and elsewhere, TESD’s taxes are NOT high — especially when taking the quality of the school system into consideration. But the community will have a class war if we begin to boil the water with the TESD in the pot….because we will kill our own programs if we don’t come to terms with what things COST — not what we want to pay for it. And that will take some serious, NON POLITICAL debate.

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  15. Township Reader: The North Penn School District went to a third party arbitration. The Arbitrator stated: No raises the first year of the contract.

    The union voted YES, the school Board voted NO. The TE teachers offered to give back over half a million dollars (which can be done without opening the contract). The union voted YES, the board said NO. Board members are in the job of politics, teachers are in the job of service.

    The teachers and contract are not to blame, the economy, state and federal regulations are to blame. In case you have not driven around lately, TE residents are not doing to bad financially. Our school taxes are some of the lowest in the state. We need to buckle down, make cuts with a scalpel (and not an axe), and weather the storm.

    The district needs to change it’s financial practices. As parents we need to accept that some of that financial responsibility needs to be shared. Everyone fears change, but change needs to occur so we can evolve as a district and a community.

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  16. Whoever you are “Re: Township Reader”, you went on a rant without addressing the issues. North Penn had an arbitrator — so what — the strike does NOTHING to advance the cause except to damage the kids. No benefits to either negotiating party except that by damaging the kids, the strikers gain some leverage in theory by pressuring parents to pressure the board. There is no obligation to settle to end the strike — and the teachers will be ordered back to work (if they haven’t been already — I was out of town this week). There is no obligation to negotiate on either party. In case you haven’t done more than drive around, TE residents are doing fine, but MANY are out of work. Here’s the problem I have stated before — most parents are relatively newer homeowners — i.e., they escrow their taxes along with their mortgage. Many longer-term residents no longer escrow their taxes — or have mortgages. They actually write a tax check — so the affect of school taxes is much more relevant. No one with kids in school objects to tax increases because you are getting tuition-free education at a wonderful price….
    HOW — may I ask — do you suggest that the district change its financial practices without also changing its approach to /attitude about compensation of employees?
    I ended my post by reminding people that we have to come to terms with what we are willing to pay for vs. what we expect from the school system. I know quite well where our taxes are relatively — but I also know that many people choose this community over neighboring ones because of lower taxes. Parents with kids in school are going to be faced with paying for services and activities — subsidizing their own kids rather than taxpayers continuing that process. Not sure that’s so bad — but the board needs to set a course for compensation and stick with it — not always chase the next contract for whichever group is about to negotiate. They debated recently about freezing non-union people because union people aren’t frozen — but they can step up and forecast that the next union contract will also have a wage freeze. You are saying that an arbitrator suggested that for North Penn??

    And enough about what the TE teachers offered. It’s meaningless and it’s moot. If they don’t sit down and negotiate something — if they don’t trust the school board but rather grandstand at public meetings and with emails to parents — then it’s rather a weak offer. The administration largely comes from the instructional group — and they have good relationships. If there was any “there” there, something would have happened. I said earlier and someone took great offense at it — but the board is going to “knock the crap” out of the union in the next negotiation because this budget problem is going to grow quite a bit — because much of the strategy to deal with it is to defer the costs….”one time” savings.

    Good luck with it all. And if you really believe that school board members are in the job of politics — and TEACHERS are in the job of service — you definitely are drinking the kool-aid. School board members SERVE — teachers are employees — they are in a job with a union and work rules. School board members don’t make a dime — and most voters don’t know one from another. How much do you know about board members unless you attend meetings — except for who has the best signs — or who is endorsed by your party?

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