School Board Votes Against Continuing EIT Discussion at this Time

The vote last night by the T/E School Board stunned me – they voted 7-2 against sending a notification letter to the Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships that the school district would consider a voter referendum on the EIT on the May ballot.  Their vote last night was only to continue the process of discovery – there was no downside to the notification to the townships.  The School Board would still have until the March 18, 2011 deadline to decide whether to take it to voter referendum in May.  Kevin Mahoney and Anne Crowley believed that it was important to continue the public discussion and voted in favor of sending the notification to the townships; the other 7 members of the school board voted against.

I do not understand this school board decision.  Faced with a $7 million deficit that needs to be funded, why would these seven board members take an option off the table prematurely?  The school board may not have enough details now to make a decision about the voter referendum but the beauty of the vote last night was that they did not need to make a decision now – just buy themselves some more time by notifying the townships and continuing to work towards a March decision. After continuing to research their options, if the March 18, 2011 deadline came and the School Board was not comfortable with a voter referendum on the issue, they could decide then not to take if any further.  However, by taking it ‘off the table’ last night, seven members of the School Board took away that option.  

Why did the School Board go to the trouble of having a public meeting on EIT if this was going to be the outcome?  Why not handle the decision democratically and let the public weigh in?  Whether it is an increase in property taxes, imposing an EIT, cutting programs and/or staff . . . something is going to have to change and there will be a cost to the taxpayers and/or to the school district programming. Again, why remove one of the options unnecessarily without full discussion? 

A reason to vote against continuing the process by some of the School Board members could be the thought that the EIT referendum would fail out the polls in May . . . but without a crystal ball, how could they know?

In my opinion, with the school district facing a $7 million deficit, keeping all options on the table as long as possible should be the goal of the school board, rather than second-guessing the future.  Perhaps the 7 members of the School Board have some kind of funding solution in mind for the future . . . taking on the teacher union at the next contract negotations? 

Ray Clark attended last night’s School Board meeting and provided the following notes:

At its meeting on Monday, the School Board voted 7-2 against sending to the Townships a letter of intent regarding the implementation of an EIT in 2011/12 and for setting up a Commission to study the issue between May and September 2011.  Kevin Mahoney was in favor of sending the letter to allow continued discussion this year, while Anne Crowley wanted further information for another Board meeting before the November deadline for the letter.

The most common reasons advanced in favor of the delay were:
  –  An EIT could maybe be a good idea, but in the opinion of the Board, the voters would vote it down if presented with options and asked next year.
  –  There is not enough time (5 months (October 26 2010 to March 18 2011) to resolve the many unknowns (versus May to September 2011?).
  –  Because T/E will have to solve the $8 million gap problem by cutting education programs, drawing down the fund balance and/or going to a property tax referendum, there will be pressure on the unions to accept compensation reductions in the contract beginning 2012/13 and 2013/14.
 –  Harrisburg will eventually fund PSERS at no incremental cost to T/E.
 –  That an EIT will harm property values more than a property tax increase.

Betsy Fadem introduced a nice piece of analysis by calculating the percentage of residents (seniors, income earners, children, maybe pets [just kidding!]) who are currently paying an EIT, and implying that all the remaining residents would have to pay an EIT if it were introduced by T/E.  Thankfully Kevin Mahoney was able to point out that there are five residents in his household, but only one is, and would be, paying an EIT!

Separately, but relatedly, Karen Cruickshank noted that the Education Committee had voted in favor of increasing teacher workload at CHS and of an effective reduction in CHS periods (combined expense-saving potential, assuming workforce reduction through attrition, approx $1.5 million per year).

I would definitely encourage residents to watch the replay of the meeting to assess their representatives’ perspectives.

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  1. The School Board voted in favor of organizing a tax study commission. They took an EIT off the table for the 2011-12 budget but indicated that they will seriously consider it for 2012-13. And they will do it right with a tax study commission that is bipartisan…Pattye and Ray- you could join it if you support the EIT so strongly!

    If you actually believe the EIT is a good idea, why not allow a tax study commission the time to examine it? And why not give the board more time to get public opinions?

    Kevin Buraks, for example, strongly supports an EIT. He didn’t vote for the EIT last night because he indicated that he felt it would fail at this time and that would take it off the table as an option for several years.

    Also, the Board was pretty firm in not voting for the EIT. Anyone with common sense would realize that taking an additional $7.9million in tax revenue right before a union contract negotiation is a recipe for disaster. The board will find the cuts for the 2011-12 budget and combine that with fund balance…but why tax now if the board can balance the budget without it? Although some residents pay an EIT already, it will be a new tax on 60-70% of residents with earned income.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I think that those details were all in my notes. And of course the arguments do not withstand even a minimum level of scrutiny.

    For example: the new TSC can produce a report in five months starting next May but not in five months starting now? And the next TEEA contract will be negotiated in 2012, by which time the new TSC will have reported and the Board will have decided whether to send a letter of intent to the Townships. Also, as I recall, the TENIG contract won’t be up for a year after the TEEA one.

    I think that this decision to raise property taxes will be an issue for the re-election of Bookstaber, Bruce, Cruickshank and Motel, although possibly not all intend to run. Mahoney has distinguished himself on financial issues, though..

    [Reply]

    Sick and Tired Reply:

    When you say Mahoney has distinguished himself, PT Barnum comes to mind….his voting for it last night is the same as kampf voting against the sewer tax….just building a record to run on…I believe that .Mahoney LEAD the negotiations last time and will do so again, with a strong determination to have highest paid employees in Chester County…and stood behind raises for all non-contract employees, and will do so again according to my friends on the board. And personally created the $30,000 bonus to pay the superintendent’s tuition bills (it’s a benefit available to Penn high level employees….) which under PA law ended up in his paycheck for good.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I’m sure you are right that he contributed to the excesses in the last contract. It does seem to me, though, that he has seen the light, in contrast to your perspective. At least he is leading the effort for transparency and solutions.

  2. I share Pattye’s outrage that the School Board thinks so little of the voters’ opinion that they make a pre-emptive decision based on incomplete data.

    The aggregate tax increase burden on T/E residents in 2011/12 will now be at least 40% higher than it would otherwise have been – and the net increase could have been zero with the right mix of tax rates and property tax rebates. The tax increase will continue to add directly to the mortgage/property tax payment and stifle any recovery in property values.

    Let’s look for a silver lining, though! Based on this decision, the School Board will now be hard pressed to ask the voters to approve any tax increase while they are running for re-election. That means that their annual property tax increase will be limited to what they can extract without that voter approval.

    So, the maximum property tax increase for 2011/12 will be 3.2%, assuming the Board spends the legal fees to request and get exceptions from the State. Not great when inflation, Social Security COLA, etc. is zero, but at least there’s a cap. And they can probably run down the Fund Balance again next year without jeopardizing the bond rating. It’s unfortunate that the strategy is the Greco-Irish one of waiting for the ceiling to cave in. However, at least there is some cash left, and it’s not earning anything in our zero interest rate environment.

    [Reply]

    Mike in Berwyn Reply:

    Ray:

    I would be interested in a further explanation of your statement that, “The aggregate tax increase burden on T/E residents in 2011/12 will now be at least 40% higher than it would otherwise have been – and the net increase could have been zero with the right mix of tax rates and property tax rebates”.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    OK, here’s what’s behind the thought. This is based on very rough numbers from the info session, lots of assumptions about the Townships, etc., and of course needing precise data from the tax collector.

    Suppose the deficit is $6 million. Could be filled by:

    1. Increase property taxes by ~7%. Net increase in aggregate taxes paid by T/E residents: $6 million.

    2. Implement a .375% EIT, raise $6 million to fund the deficit. $2.4 million (40%) is already paid by T/E residents. Net increase in aggregate taxes paid by T/E residents: $3.6 million.

    3. Implement a 1% EIT, raise $16 million, of which $6 million is already paid by T/E residents. Use $6 million to fund the deficit and $10 million to increase the homestead tax reduction. Net increase in aggregate taxes paid by T/E residents: $0.

    [Reply]

  3. By what screwed up logic is a vote against a nearly $8 million EIT a vote for raising taxes? That doesn’t make sense.

    The deficit can be closed through budget cuts, which are necessary. This board has never sought exceptions to the Act 1 cap, and I doubt you’ll see them seek the exceptions this year either. The mood of the voters is for cuts…not tax hikes.

    But I love how the EIT supporters try to twist voting against a big tax hike on the 60% of employed voters who do not already pay an EIT into a tax hike. Approximately 40% of employed voters (e.g. those with earned income) pay an EIT, but 60% don’t.

    Also, #3 in Ray’s example above is just impossible and also completely naive. Let’s suppose that the voters approved a 1% EIT. In theory, it could be used to go back to the voters in the form of reductions. However, there is no requirement to use it for tax reduction, and it is very unlikely to be used in this way given the predicted deficits, etc. Even if it was used this way for 1 year, there would be nothing to bind future boards to use the money in that way. So basically it’s a $16 million tax hike available for spending, union raises, etc. And you can’t implement an EIT with a sunset…so it would be a permanent new tax.

    Also, let’s address the fairness of Ray’s #3. You’re basically proposing a tax shift. Tax the 60% of working families that don’t pay an EIT so everyone else gets a tax break. Who cares if they are renters? Who cares if they are low income? This just isn’t fair, and the voters rejected a tax shift last time around. But I suppose tax shifts are appealing to those who would benefit to them…screw fairness and just pick your neighbor’s pocket.

    [Reply]

    anon Reply:

    ——–
    The deficit can be closed through budget cuts, which are necessary.
    ——-

    Not without cutting further into educational programs.

    Somehow, the gap will need to be closed, and the only place to do that is to increase property taxes.

    The very people who decry an EIT are the very people who got us into this mess. They want first class schools but don’t want to pay for them. These people relied too heavily on property transfer taxes and thought the good times would last forever.

    The other irony? The fact that property values have remained relatively stable around here is because of the quality of our schools. And yet, the very people who decry an EIT, the ones that got us into this mess, cite the schols as a reason why our community is a desirable place to live. When you start having to cut educational programs, the schools will not be what they were. Consequently, property values will go down. The people that decry an EIT will complain, as all of us will. Yet, the people who decry an EIT are the ones that got us into this mess because their party is the one that gave the store away. Sure, they like to blame it on Harrisburg. However, it is the local school board that unions negotiate with.

    The bottom line? This is a mess that has to be fixed and the people that made the mess don’t want the political liability that comes with an EIT. Yet these same people, want to take credit for how good our schools are. Will they be there to accept responsibility for the decline in our schools? Of course not.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    “By what screwed up logic is a vote against a nearly $8 million EIT a vote for raising taxes?”

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Because it removes an option for paying lower incremental taxes.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    “Also, #3 in Ray’s example above is just impossible.”

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Well, I was just answering Mike’s question. However, you never know what’s possible if you shut down the dialog.

    Daily Show host Jon Stewart had it right when he said:

    I

    Give

    Up

    Hoping to see you all in DC on Saturday……

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Don’t give up Ray. The voice in the wilderness is a voice stirring debate! I think the board really believes they cannot afford to go to the voters on this too quickly —
    I don’t know the rules — does the school board NEED a referendum to institute and EIT? Does the BOS? I cannot imagine every jurisdiction with an EIT got voter approval to implement it?
    Keep the faith and keep the info coming. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Leaving Out Some Details Reply:

    According to the info session on 10/18, the BOS doesn’t need approval but the School Board does.

    I cannot find a single township in my Google searches that has passed an Act 511 EIT with a voter referendum. Several passed an EIT or PIT with an Act 1 voter referendum back in 2007 though but that referendum requires associated property tax decreases. Act 511 EIT doesn’t.

    Anyone else know any township that did an EIT with a referendum?

    Mike in Berwyn Reply:

    From my understanding, under current law, the BOS can only implement an EIT after a voter referendum.

    Ray – your analysis leaves out the possibility that the Townships could opt in to half of the EIT revenue and you assume that the shortfall will be completely made up from RE tax increases – that’s not gonna happen. Though you’re a known proponent of the EIT, the realistic and sensible case is your “silver lining”.

    There is no indication from past results (88% against an income tax in 2007) or the tone at the hearing on 10/18, that an EIT would pass. Maybe the Board is thinking that if they put it on the ballot for May 2011, and it gets roundly defeated, which is likely, the BOS can’t realistically come back again in 2012 or 2013 with the referendum. In my opinion, the EIT only has a chance, and a slim chance at that, if we’re in a crisis mode (i.e., if there’s no “fix” for PSERs).

    Certainly, we’ll need to rely on the professional educators to balance cost/quality in the District’s program – history would suggest they will do that well. In my opinion, there is still room to balance the budget through a combination of budget cuts, allowable RE tax increases of up to 3.2%, and modest use of fund balance.

    Mike in Berwyn Reply:

    To correct, I meant SB directors, not BOS (Board of Supervisors) in my post above.

  4. The school board voted 7 to 2 to reject an EIT. It wasn’t a party-line vote. Karen and Kevin Buraks voted to reject it as well. And the main advocate for an EIT- Kevin Mahoney- is a Republican. So why is “anon” trying to make this a political party issue?

    Ray writes:
    “By what screwed up logic is a vote against a nearly $8 million EIT a vote for raising taxes?”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Because it removes an option for paying lower incremental taxes.

    Well…Ray, an EIT doesn’t remove the option for paying lower incremental taxes. It just shifts around the burden to people with earned income. Those people not already paying an EIT (approx 60-65% of those working) would have a HUGE tax increase. An EIT only removes the option for paying lower incremental taxes for those with NO earned income and those who already pay an EIT. So Ray….just be honest about your intentions of shifting the tax burden around rather than pretending it’s a tax cut for all. What you’re saying is that you are ok with a huge tax hike for some as long as others might wind up paying slightly less. Yep…really fair.

    Ray, do you happen to already pay an EIT? Pattye works in Tredyffrin, so her advocacy for an EIT doesn’t benefit her at all. But many of the other people advocating for an EIT have either no earned income or already pay one. In my experience, it’s much rarer to see someone like Pattye volunteer to say “I’ll gladly pay more taxes.” Even rarer to hear that from someone who doesn’t have kids in the schools. In my experience people with kids currently in the schools often are willing to take a higher tax burden….since their own kids benefit. I’ll say this…I respect Pattye’s support for an EIT a lot more than I do the people who the tax wouldn’t impact who are happy to tax their neighbor more as long as it benefits them.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    My husband works for Unisys Corp which is located in Tredyffrin Township and Jeff would pay an EIT. For years, Jeff worked for Unisys in Blue Bell and for years we paid EIT to Whitpain Township. And for all those years, had Tredyffrin had an EIT that money would have come back to Tredyffrin. Yes, we understand EIT.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    I wonder if Ray would pay an EIT. I appreciate the boards decision, and agree, for once, with Kate that their decision to end the discussion is part of their plan going into negotiations.

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    ok I read through and saw Ray’s answer.

    anon Reply:

    I live in the township and work in the township. I would be fine with paying an EIT to make sure educational programs aren’t cut. The contracts are what they are. We cannot look backward. The GOP got us into this mess. Specifically, people like Andrea Felkins and Pat Wood got us into this mess, two people that endorse Warren Kampf. That should tell you a lot.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks John. You could turn bad weather into Warren Kamps’ s fault. and for the record — and I do mean the RECORD — I left the board in 2001….and the contract I left in place addressed countless problems, including taking the starting salary OFF the negotiating table so that the PSEA “race to 50K” didn’t influence us. I have been a major odds with the TESD Board since 2006 — feeling that they are not willing to adequately address the issues because they are so damn secretive….I did an RTK and was treated like a pariah….
    So whatever it tells you as far as Warren Kampf, you force me back into my other mantra:
    I want a fiscal conservative in Harrisburg, one who doesn’t owe anything to Dwight Evans….I trust that Warren kampf will spend less of my money than Paul drucker.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    This is exactly why we need to Restore Sanity.

    Personal circumstances have come to count more than the merits of the case.

    For the record, I paid an EIT outside the Township when I worked in Collegeville, no EIT when I worked in Tredyffrin, and now I am retired I would not pay an EIT. All the time, of course, I have paid a property tax, which would have been lower were there an EIT here.

    The impact on any one resident of the Township will be determined by their income, where it is earned, the EIT rate, the homestead rebate, the assessed value of any home they own and the rate of the property tax increase. So those who would have a HUGE tax increase will be those with high incomes, earned in a non-EIT jurisdiction and owning no property in the Townships. I don’t think that is 60% of those working!

    [Reply]

    Just a thought Reply:

    I don’t have kids – I do have earned income – and I WOULD support an EIT in Tredyffrin to maintain an excellent school system. I believe in investing in kids – even if they aren’t mine – and excellent schools also positively impact our property values.

    [Reply]

  5. Like Pattye, I was disappointed that a full and open discussion of the EIT was nipped in the bud – before any resident had enough information to decide how it would affect his/her family finances.. We need more information before we can be knowledeable participants.

    The fact that the SB had the courage to hold a public meeting and bring in outside experts to explain the general workings of an EIT, – given the anti-tax bias established during the recent public budget discussions – led me to believe it was being given serious consideration.

    With a $6.9 million deficit looming, district program cuts will have to be a significant part of the formula to balance the 2011-12 budget – unless the state steps in and provides our school district some relief from the $10 million pension obligation due next year.

    How much more can be cut without measurably affecting quality?

    The posts from Leaving out some Details give insight into the thinking of the SB. What I initially judged as bowing to public pressure may be a careful calculation of proper timing.

    If the SB can piece together another budget with a combination of prudent spending cuts, a modest property tax increase and the use of reserve funds, I believe the community will support it, and be more understanding of what may be the inevitable for 2012-13 – the need to consider an EIT.

    There is no question that an EIT represents a shifting of the tax burden. And 1% is a significant bite for those who have been lucky enough to avoid paying it. That it is a tax-deductible burden hardly makes a difference to most families. Part of the District’s anaysis has to be looking tat the effect on all economic groups within the district’s.

    Finally, I can understand the SB’s preference to go into the next teacher contract negotiations constrained by Act 1 and T/E’s exisiting tax base. It is a transparent strategy for holding the line on salaries and benefits and slowing the growth of spending in future years.

    [Reply]

  6. If you are a renter, 1% of your income is a HUGE tax increase. And you would get no corresponding property tax decrease. 1% of anyone’s income is a big tax increase…not just for high earners. High earners (although they would pay more) would feel a loss of 1% much less than a middle or lower income working already struggling to get by. And we do have a lot of those people in the township.

    60% of those working don’t currently pay an EIT…that’s a new tax for those 60%. There may still be valid reasons for supporting an EIT…but let’s not pretend that taking 1% of someone’s income isn’t a big deal or that it wouldn’t impact a lot of people.

    Also, I really doubt that the educational quality of the schools will be destroyed if we don’t have a lot of extra money for union raises on hand. I still think the EIT is just a bunch of extra money for the teachers…who are paid quite well as it is. TE teachers are the highest in Chester County.

    If we had a guarantee that the EIT money would actually lead to tax cuts, then we could discuss fairness, etc and have a real conversation. Bu we have no guarantee EIT would reduce taxes. The school board members I’ve asked have indicated that it wouldn’t reduce property tax increases…let alone reduce the current tax burden. There’s just too much of a need for the money to justify giving it back…and government can always find ways to spend money. Do you know how many parents lobby for air conditioning in the schools? Plenty…but the School Board hasn’t voted for elementary school air conditioning due to funding. Give them the funding, and they will find ways to spend it…such as air conditioning for elementary schools. Air conditioning is a nice-to-have but it’s not the kind of thing we should be taxed more to pay for. It’s not essential to learning like books, teachers or class sizes.

    [Reply]

  7. Kate:

    Your post hits the highlights on the rationale for the SB’s decision – see, you and I can agree! Leaving Out Some Details and I presented the SB’s case that it would not pass and politically, you can only put the referendum on the ballot every several years. Further, the upcoming teacher contract is complicating factor.

    Also, I agree that an EIT is a significant shift of the tax burden. I have a real problem with the fairness of moving from funding our schools with real estate taxes, which is the known funding scheme for every resident in the District, to one which only falls on those with earned income.

    [Reply]

  8. Bottom line — our discussion about the massive cost of the pension system is almost moot — because if the state doesn’t change the rules, it will absolutely bankrupt many, many districts. TE has a fund balance and can pay the bills for a lot longer time than countless districts. TE doesn’t want to go to the well until it’s necessary….and the EIT hearing was just the canary in the mine.

    [Reply]

  9. It will be interesting to see if the board’s strategy is to squeeze the union.

    By limiting revenue (no EIT, no Act 1 Referencum, no Act 1 exceptions) the union has the following two choices:

    1. Accept program cuts and teacher layoffs to balance the budget

    or

    2. Reopen the contract and accept pay freezes in return for limiting teacher layoffs.

    For those, like me, who believe there is little relationship between spending and academic achievement this is a great strategy. I believe 5% can be taken out of the budget with minimal effect on education.

    [Reply]

  10. All these talks about the next contract? Does anyone really think the last contract was a power trip for the teachers? When you give raises of 5% to a group of employees, that means really big raises for lots of those employees. I think the 5% is on the total salary costs each year — so anyone making less than the average salary would get a lot bigger raise. 5% means that’s the average raise, right?
    So why not ask the people on the SB what kind of target they will pursue? I really don’ t think this SB is trying to get costs down. Are Radnor, Lower Merion and Chadds Ford settled yet? Those school contracts will be important to look at?

    [Reply]

  11. Lower Merion is settled. Radnor rejected the offer.

    Many districts around the state are aiming for raises no higher than Act 1 indexes.

    I doubt we’d get a straight answer from the school board about contract negotiations and proposed raises. But from everything I can see…the board is trying to get costs down. As Ray noted, Karen shared in her education update several changes that will save millions that were voted on at the last education meeting. However, union negotiations are a different story…and much harder to handle. It would be a shame if all these savings are just gobbled up with raises in the next contract.

    [Reply]

    schoolobserver Reply:

    I don’t have the Lower Merion schedule of employees, but a quick look at this 2-year contract certainly reflects raises much higher than the act 1 index.
    The starting salary in year one is $51,221 and that employee in the second year, no education upgrades will make $53,736. That is 4.9% for someone who doesn’t even work there to be bargained for.
    A masters degree step 12 this year makes $96,749. If that person doesn’t get education, the raise will be to $103,714…. 7.1%. If they get 15 credits to move laterally, they will make $106,598 … which would be an increase of 10.2%. So that act 1 idea isn’t quite in place…..

    [Reply]

  12. seems to me the real problem are those folks in Harrisburg. The result of their dictates is to either squeeze the homeowners or dumb down the quality of education so that all districts will participate in a “fair” funding level but the quality will be poorer or poor in these districts. Sounds familiar. (healthcare).

    [Reply]

  13. Seems to me, flyersfan, that the problem is with people who don’t take the time to learn the facts but offer opinions anyway. Governor Rendell has been strongly committed to gradually increasing education funding , partly to keep property tax increases down, but also to bring PA up to education funding levels that are comparable to many other states. PA spends less on education than we used to and less than many other states in the country.

    It’s a matter of priorities in an environment of reduced state revenues and spending. The pension problem is a complicating factor and one for which the band-aid solution recently voted on in the House will lessen the near-term obligations (but increase the cost to taxpayers long-term).It still leaves school districts holding the bag for huge annual increases, but ithe bill is a small start in light of current economic constraints..

    Those who say that Harrisburg has been spending too much money never specify what they would cut. Everyone agrees that fraud and abuse should be reined in and the $200 million “special appropriations” fund needs to be returned to the state’s general fund and every penny accounted for. And tmost agree that the cost of running our legislature is too high.

    But your worry about “dumbing down” the quality of education is code for “I don’t want my tax dollars subsidizing less fortunate school distrcits in the state.” I like to think you are in the minority.

    It is our good fortune to live in a community where the tax base provides for well-funded schools. But every child deserves a chance at a good education, and it is the state’s responsibility to ensure it.

    But maybe you are one of those people who think public education and state and federal level Depts. of Education should be defunded, and that education should be market-based…….

    Is that where you’re coming from?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Kate
    Why is it that “$200 million special appropriations” — which is likely tied to the Paoli Money Rep. Drucker was the beneficiary of — is only a problem in the abstract, but not in the “Paul brought us funding” context? One of his platform accomplishments.

    Do you really think a continuing democratic house majority will take back that money from Rep. Evans…his largesse, after all, is part of what they use to get re-elected.

    And how come the pension problem and the band aid fix, which you now concede will add costs in the future, is good enough for Rep. Drucker to claim as one of his accomplishments this term — “saving taxpayers $25 Billion.”….when the data suggest it will cost more in the future. Another platform accomplishment.

    Your claim that dumbing down means not taking care of less fortunate districts is a mightly leap. NO matter how much money Harrisburg raises, this district is not likely to improve our funding from the state….and the index for next year at 1.4% is hardly going to be something the PSEA considers a living wage….Read the Radnor letter today from their teachers…. Rep. Drucker’s 3rd (and final” ) claim of accomplishment is that he fights to fund the schools and keep property taxes down. How so?

    Follow the money…..the PSEA drives a lot of decisions. The WAM of Rep. Evans controls a lot of loyalty.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Hey Andrea – looking down the road a bit – do you think that there is any chance that taxpayers will be able to get a look at the proposed salary schedule and teacher matrix (am I learning the right terms?!) before the Board votes on the next TEEA contract?

    I think there’s much more likely to be buy-in if the current trend towards transparency continues, and we get a chance to see the data and test the assumptions. We’re now starting to get more analysis of salary schedules on the blog here.

    If there’s a road block to this, would it be from the unions or School Board or both? Could this come under RTK ahead of an actual signed contract?

    Any thoughts on this and how to make it happen?

    [Reply]

    Leaving Out Some Details Reply:

    It would be great if the board could share the information with the public first. Andrea- do you know if they are allowed to do so? I’ve heard stuff from school board members about how they aren’t allowed to talk about negotiations while they are ongoing. Is that true or a bunch of BS?

    citizenone Reply:

    The current Unionville negotiations saga is instructive. The board chose to go public a few months after negotiations stalled. The links below contain material that is comprehensive and detailed.

    http://www.ucfsd.org/nn/091310nn.pdf

    http://www.ucfsd.org/nn/100610nn.pdf

    Any labor related information is specifically exempt from disclosure under the Right to Know Law. But, the Board and/or the union can voluntarily choose to release it.

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Thanks, C1. You link to an excellent discussion of the salary matrix/schedule and the ways in which compensation ratchets up. If the TE School board released a similar discussion of the 2011/12 impact of the current contract, the public might have a collective heart attack.

    Of course a deeper lesson comes from the stance of the union, which seems to think that it is business-as-usual.

    So, release of info is clearly possible if there is a dispute. Let’s hope that T/E can go a step beyond and release details of a proposed agreement before it is final.

    Andrea Reply:

    Everything related to negotiations is protected under the personnel piece (and more) of the sunshine law. The board and the union are rarely open about anything discussed — because the “package” has to been sold to the union to ratify and the board to approve. I agree that places like this board are useful for discussion — you might remember I actually started a blog called understanding school spending — specifically to answer questions and provide data. (abandoned it for now)…but pro-actively, I would not expect the board or the union to disclose much.

    The other side of that is to ask the board publicly if they have any goals they can share relating to negotiations? I saw the comments on Lower Merion — and went to their website. Quiet about it but only a 2 year deal is obviously indication that politics and turnover are part of their issues…..

    The TESD board and administration are incredibly protective of information, so I don’t know what an RTK request would produce, but as I have said before — I think you should ask for the matrix for the current schedule. It’s a document promised to the TEEA in the contract, so it’s one that they could deliver to you electronically. May even be on their website now since Debbie Bookstaber is doing that committee and she is very much about transparency.

  14. Kate, you make these unlevel assumptions about me and that is unfortunate. That is the problem with either this type of forum, where face to face contact, intonations and the like are missing.

    STOP accusing and judging me. You render yourself IRRELEVANT to the conversation, even as I try to make nice.
    Your RAGE and everything and anything you don’t understand nor agree with is typical of the likes of you and your irrational “patriots” on the left,.

    WHERE DID I SAY “DUMBIMG DOWN MEANS MY TAX DOLLARS DON’T GO TO LESS FORTUNATE DISTRICTS?”

    I resent that you interpreted it that way. You just shut down the conversation. The secular zealotry has struck again.

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  15. Kate,

    Curious to get your comments if I were to change your third from last paragraph as follows:

    Our good fortune has allowed us to choose to live in a community where the tax base provides for well-funded schools. Every child deserves the opportunity for a good education, and it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure it. It is in the community (i.e. state/nation) interest to strive to provide such an opportunity.

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  16. Kudos to the school board on voting down the EIT. The EIT is not a fair tax to the majority of working families in the TE School District.

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    anon Reply:

    Fine, then you are in agreement with jacking up the property tax by 15+%.

    People like you are funny. You want the benefits of a superior school system but are not willing to pay for it.

    The “fairness” argument is totally bogus by the way.

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    anon80 Reply:

    Index is 1.4%

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    Hockeypuck1987 Reply:

    don’t want 15% tax hike and don’t want a pot of money waiting for the union to confiscate. Wouldnt be a good negotiating tactic from the school boards side. It isn’t always your way or bust, Mr. Anon

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  17. Anon
    The fairness argument is only bogus in your view, probably because you pay an EIT and want some offset. For someone who buys a house in our district, they have a “ceiling” of sorts on their tax exposure — so while the millege might go up, it will only raise in relation to their property’s value. Not so with an income based tax….which in fact could reduce the value of property making our community less appealing than neighboring ones without an EIT.
    We all pay an income tax for education — it’s call the PA income tax….hardly anything except pension income is exempt, and the state sends some part of it back. Why expose our income to two taxes?

    So — not bogus. Contrary to your view, but not bogus.

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  18. I have just had an opportunity to watch the tape of the School Board meeting and the fiasco concerning the EIT discussion. It appears to me that that the public meeting and discussion was a sham and that the decision was a foregone conclusion as evidenced by the prepared resolution to defer the decision. What a joke.
    All the Board members – with on exception – made prepared comments. I was not surprised by the fact that Jim Bruce was silent as usual — but was able to check his his cell phone several times. What does he bring to this group or to the District??
    I heard arguments that imposing an EIT would lower property values. I do not understand that at all — would increasing the real estate taxes not have a larger impact on home values than an EIT? And more importantly – it was extremely disappointing to hear several members of the Board more concerned with the re-sale value of their home than the quality of education in the township. Do they not have a fiduciary obligation as Board members to the school district and not to their own pocketbooks.
    Many of the Board were whining that they did not have all the facts. Has this not benn on the table for 4 – 5 years?? Let us have yet another STUDY.
    And we must remember – the question was not whether to impose a tax — but merely to put it on the ballot for residents to decide.
    I am also at a loss as to how these quote volunteers are letting politics and their fear of not being re-elected affect any sane decision process.
    Finally – as this Board sits in the palace they created on West Valley Road — by the decision to PURCHASE the site for 7.5 million dollars and not leasing the space — and now looking at a 7.5 million deficit. The cost to purchase is not over as we are still paying to demolish the ESC and erect storage sheds on the property.
    Yes BUT all the problems are due to the only folks that have an impact on the kids education – the teachers.
    Give me a break.

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    Rational Thought Reply:

    School boards are supposed to care about the impact of their decisions on: 1) the quality of the schools and 2) the taxpayers. They need to balance those two competing needs. When School Boards ignore one to the detriment of the other, it has negative effects.

    For example, Lower Merion gave every single student a free laptop and just built a REALLY fancy new high school at great expense. But Lower Merion has a much higher tax rate than TE, which hurts seniors and all sorts of people who cannot afford the massive tax increases every year. But the LM School Board doesn’t care. It’s voting “for the children” who cares about the taxpayers.

    Our school board made a well-thought out decision, and it was a bipartisan decision. They asked for feedback in the form of comments solicited on the district website, which was received in advance of the meeting (and noted in the agenda), and they also had an EIT info session prior to the meeting where they met with the public and heard feedback. If they had prepared statements, it’s probably because they each HAD made a decision prior to the meeting. But it is also likely that they hadn’t had a chance to discuss it with each other due to Sunshine Law restrictions. I asked a member of the board the day before the meeting how the vote would go and he told me that he had no idea how the board would swing. He only knew his vote. Would you prefer that they go to the meeting without preparing any thoughts?

    Since a new EIT is a permanent tax, what is wrong with studying it more? You can always add an EIT next year, but you can’t put the genie back in the bottle and eliminate a tax in the future. Clearly, the board believes it can balance the budget this year without substantial program cuts or anything that would harm the quality of the schools.

    I also watched that meeting, and the Board members did remark about whether or not the EIT could hurt property values. But isn’t that a valid concern? And it wouldn’t be because of their own pocketbooks. I didn’t sense any selfish intent. The board has a responsibility to consider everyone’s resale value. That is part of their responsibility to the taxpayers. Board members are beholden to all taxpayers…not just parents.

    From what I’ve heard, only Mahoney and Cruickshank are definitely running for reelection anyhow, but I really doubt that reelection influences anyone’s decisions on the board. How many people would compromise their integrity to win a completely unpaid position that requires around 10-20 hours of work a week? I just really doubt it.

    Whether you like them or not, they all seem like well-intentioned people. If you think you can do a better job, please run. There are few people willing to take on the job. I’m sure the TTGOP or TTDEMS would welcome a new candidate…it’s so hard to find anyone. I know because I’ve tried for years to recruit people to run for the board, and 9 out of 10 times people won’t even think about it before saying no.

    BTW: it’s interesting to see Mahoney embrace the pro-EIT position advocated for by so many Democrats and to see Cruickshank take a more conservative ‘wait and see’ approach. From a reelection point of view, both of them are very intelligent. For the record, I think both of them are excellent school board members and deserve reelection, so this comment is not a criticism of either.

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    Kevin Grewell Reply:

    Thank you. You capture very well the balance of interests school board members have to contend with. (I was on the board 1999-2007). We need more “rational thought”.

    Thanks again.

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    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Indeed, the issue needs more study and rational thought. For example, would property values be hurt more by a further increase in property taxes or an EIT? By a higher aggregate tax on T/E residents or a lower one?

    Was the feedback the Board received based on answers to these and the other unknowns? From quantified BAWG data, we do know that surveyed Tredyffrin residents would rather have an EIT than an increase in property taxes.

    Of course, any tax increase could be moot if our newly solidified state government finds a way to roll back pensions for existing employees and then an emboldened School Board freezes salaries and health insurance contributions in the next contracts.

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  19. West Valley RD was an “investment”. the spin was.it could be sold in tough times..they pay a $5100 monthly condo fee. At the same time the property on Howellville Rd was turned into the IT building.for another 2.5 million. . .problem is they wiped out the maintenance department and sent them to ESC. . .now they are jammed into the former bus garage and the district has had plans for a new maintenance building that would cost 5-6 million ( they have to purchase one more home on Old Lanc RD). At the Oct. Facilities meeting they unveiled a new plan .. a 3500 sq ft storage building on the old Lanc RD lot… a bargain at 1.5 mil….. TESD spends our money on education not expensive projects.

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  20. I think it’s safe to say that Phil Hooper’s death was a tragedy in many, many ways. The facilities committee doesn’t seem to have much strategic direction == being reactive and not pro-active.. Perhaps they could move the meetings to a different time some months to make the agenda more user-friendly. I am responsible for the early morning meeting time back in the day when we were working on Conestoga renovation plans so that the staff from CHS could attend and not miss too much school time….but perhaps an end of school day or even an evening meeting would serve a broader purpose and allow more of us to attend and be brought up to date on the status of our long-range planning in this area.

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