Without a final Vanguard settlement agreement, Tredyffrin supervisors postpone vote … How could School Board vote to approve?

Tredyffrin’s largest employer, Vanguard, challenged the tax assessments for its main corporate campus and several of the buildings that surround the main campus for tax year 2012-13.

On July 8, the School Board held a Special Meeting to approve the Vanguard appeal settlement.   The School District had challenged Vanguard’s appeal and rather than the potential loss of $800K in revenue annually, the settlement cost the District $150K in annual revenue – saving the District $650K in annual losses.

All of this sounded like good news for the District – improving financials is always good news, isn’t it? The Board detailed the ongoing efforts of the District staff and solicitor in regards to the Vanguard settlement and enthusiastically approved the proposed settlement.  Although the other taxing authorities (township and county) had to approve the settlement, the solicitor stated that he expected the additional approvals by the end of the month.  In other words, fait accompli for the approval of the Vanguard appeal settlement. Following the meeting, the Board released a statement on their website, which in part said …

School Board Approves Vanguard Appeal Settlement

At a Special Meeting on July 8, 2013, the Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board approved a settlement agreement concerning the Vanguard assessment appeals. While the Board approved the settlement, the agreement is not final until Tredyffrin Township and Chester County, which are also taxing authorities for the Vanguard properties, also approve the agreement. All parties have been involved with the negotiations process which began in the fall of 2011.

I attended Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting last night and discussion of the Vanguard appeal settlement was on the agenda.   Based on the school board’s July 8 approval of the settlement agreement, I assumed that the supervisors would rubber-stamp that decision.  However, as we learned from the township solicitor, Vince Donohue, the Vanguard agreement was not final and that the attorneys for the District and Vanguard were still going back and forth over the details as late as 5 PM last night.   Donohue explained that the legal discussion would not change the assessment values but rather the ‘terms’ of the agreement, concluding that the “devil is in the details”.  Based on the uncertainty of the final Vanguard agreement, Donohue advised the supervisors to postpone their vote.

For several of us who attended both the school board meeting and the supervisors meeting, you are left shaking your head and wondering why is there such a disconnect between the school district and the township.  Two weeks ago the school board holds a special meeting to tell the public their ‘good news’ – that after much effort, the District has reached a settlement with Vanguard and that there is a net savings of $650K.   Plus the added bonus included in the settlement is that Vanguard will not seek assessment appeals for 3 years. We have no idea what ‘terms’ of the agreement are still in debate, maybe Vanguard is no longer interested in a moratorium on assessment appeals.

What we saw with the VFES tennis courts, we now see with the Vanguard agreement … a complete disconnect between the school district and the township on public issues.  Why the seemingly disregard of the township supervisors by the school board? Rather than collaborating on shared matters, such as the tennis courts and the assessment appeal, the school board makes their decisions and then leaves it to the supervisors to find out after the fact.

I’m struggling to understand how it is possible that, without a final Vanguard appeal agreement to review, the township supervisors appropriately decides to postpone their vote whereas the school board votes to approve that same agreement and then works on the terms afterwards? 

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  1. My best guess on the 3 year hold on any more appeals is that with any hope, in 3 years the property values will be back higher again. By not allowing any appeals until then, Vanguard is locked in to the agreed upon value. Keep in mind that property value is down over the last 4-5 years. It’s on the rise. Keep the locked in rate, wait until the deal expires and see how the economy is. There is a good chance that values could be back to where they were.

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