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.