Update on TE School District Finances and Tredyffrin Township declares State of Emergency for Pope’s visit

 

Tuesday night marked TE School District’s first Finance Committee meeting of the new school year.  Although I was unable to attend the meeting, my friend Ray Clarke did attend the meeting and shared the following notes from the meeting.  Thanks Ray!

The TESD Finance Committee opened the 2015/16 season with a relaxed session on Tuesday night.  The meeting was attended by candidates Berger, Colligan, Kling, Hotinski and Kantorczyk.  A few highlights from my perspective:

Budget Process

– Finance committee approval of the Preliminary Budget is due in just three months.  After some discussion about teeing up review of opportunities in the district’s self insurance of its health plan and potentially of some special education risks, Doug Carlson requested that the Administration present the Committee with full district budget scenarios that start with expenses managed to revenues with no tax increase.  Hopefully we’ll get more than the standard operating procedure showing a $6 million deficit.

– By the way, somehow in an environment of last 12 months US inflation of 0.2%, the Act 1 index is 2.4%.  Half of the index is the increase in the Federal school employment cost index, showing how contract awards get baked into future taxes.

Current Financials

– August YTD expenses/encumbrances are up across the board, total up 12% versus last year, driven by special ed instruction up 32% (over $3 million) YTD.  I don’t recall the explanation for this but I didn’t hear any immediate concern that the overall 5% budgeted expense increase would be exceeded.  One number that does stand out for the full year budget is the $770,799 (11%) increase in the Administration budget.

– For those of use that liked to do a quick scan of the month’s check register from high to low, the task has been made harder by a switch to reporting the check register by pay period in alphabetical order.  This seems arbitrary; when asked why, no reason was provided.

– The actual results for last year are still months away, awaiting the external audit.  The Business Office is working through the encumbrances and deciding what should be released; an interesting exercise, no doubt.

Department of Unintended Consequences

– Restricting part-time employees to 27.5 hours has caused a significant shortfall in the number of teachers/aides available to support the after-school homework clubs, and this is becoming a real problem with the clubs usually starting up in October.  Part of the program is funded by FLITE, which is not able to contract with employees of our out-sourcing company, CCRES.  The District is looking to advertise specifically to hire homework club leader and assistant positions at $28 and $17/hour, which FLITE would apparently be able to continue to fund.

Other

– Kris Graham brought up the need to fully air condition all of the elementary and middle school buildings in the light of the current heat wave.  She did not offer a cost estimate for this.

Residents also learned on Tuesday that the Tredyffrin  supervisors voted to declare the township a state of emergency for the upcoming Pope’s visit, citing expected traffic and congestion. According to Police Supt. Giamio, there will be over 16,000 train riders during the pope’s visit and that the highest number are expected to use the Paoli station!  Yikes!  As an aside, I am glad about my decision to move the annual historic house tour up a week to Saturday, Sept. 19 (www.tredyffrinhistory.org) to accommodate the Pope’s visit.

We should plan around the Pope’s visit as if the weather people were predicting a blizzard — get to the grocery store and don’t forget your medication before the storm hits (or rather, the Pope lands).

18 Comments

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  1. Does this mean school will be canceled?

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    Pattye Reply:

    No, TE has not cancelled school. I don’t know if the ‘state of emergency’ in Tredyffrin will make a difference in the school board’s decision.

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    CHV Reply:

    Check tesd.net..early dismissal Friday & a 2 hr delay on Monday

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks — just heard that Friday, early dismissal at 11:30 AM plus the 2 hr. delayed start Monday.

  2. Hi Ray, thanks for the report.

    For those of use that liked to do a quick scan of the month’s check register from high to low, the task has been made harder by a switch to reporting the check register by pay period in alphabetical order. This seems arbitrary; when asked why, no reason was provided.

    I like to do a quick scan of the month’s register. It was impossible to get a true picture of pay outs last year, because the checks were presented in order of amount instead of check number. Now you say it is even harder to get a clear picture of expenses because of a switch in reporting the check register by pay period in alphabetical order.

    And when Committee Members were asked for the reason for the switch, no explanation was provided. Transparency promotes accountability. How can Art, the Business Manager be held accountable when citizens aren’t able to fully determine about expenses because the reporting is made even more difficult to understand because of a switch in the already difficult to understand way in which the check register is reported.

    I hope all the Candidates for the School Board are paying attention and learning about the “way things work.”

    Ray, did you get the sense that the Finance Committee members knew the answer to your question but chose to remain silent? Or did you get the sense they had no idea that understanding where tax payer money goes was made even more difficult by the switch to reporting by pay period in alphabetical order?

    Also,

    Restricting part-time employees to 27.5 hours has caused a significant shortfall in the number of teachers/aides available to support the after-school homework clubs, and this is becoming a real problem with the clubs usually starting up in October.

    This is just sad…………how’s that $4.8M maintenance building coming along?

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    On the check register question: the conversation went something like:
    Me: Is this the way the check register is going to be reported now?
    McDonnell: Yes
    Me: Is there a reason for the change?
    McDonnell: No
    Committee: [Silent]

    One interesting observation that emerges from the new reporting is that you can see 30 and 40 separate payments to two companies in the same weekly pay period. I suggested that it would reduce TESD work/cost to require the suppliers to consolidate their invoices so that only one payment would be required. This – standard practice – was deemed to be impractical for TESD.

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  3. Poeamania seems crazy. TESD has cancelled everything after Friday at 3pm. They have cancelled all recreational soccer for Friday and Saturday. So people in TE going to places in TE are being told not to do so. While that 16,000 number sounds high, how does that compare to a normal day at Paoli? Is that total over the 3 days? Or per day?

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  4. TESD knows exactly how much it cost to A/C each one of those schools !!!
    They had Daley & Jalboot do the estimates. Years of discussion at Facilities .. at one point they were taking temps of the classrooms.
    They chose not to put in the A/C !!!

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Agreed. A/c has been evaluated by the Facilities Committee and I understand the number the equip those parts of the schools not currently air conditioned was/is $15 million. Slightly surprising that the Board President would not reference the cost involved.

    [Reply]

  5. No air conditioning — BUT fences — we got fences and more & more fences…. and a new building for facilities…. Go figure — thought this was a school board and their objective was to work for the school children…………..

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  6. School Board Directors allocate money for:

    $4.8M maintenance buildings
    Fencing that citizens do not want
    New positions at the Administrative level, even though studies show there is no connection between student achievement and employees in this segment.
    Extravagant raises and bonuses for Administrators year in and year out.

    While:

    Taxes are increased every year
    Parents pay activity fees for clubs
    Students pay parking fees
    Middle School girls on different teams share 5+ year old uniforms.
    Students suffer in brutally hot classrooms with no air conditioning.
    Valuable employees are outsourced
    After school homework club suffers (this is unconscionable)

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    A spot-on summary!

    Hopefully the Administration will get the Homework Clubs staffed in time one way or another.

    [Reply]

    papadick58 Reply:

    Nice summary — would add that in Elementary schools not only was it HOT they also removed the water coolers..

    [Reply]

  7. For School Board Candidates, especially those who attended the Finance Committee meeting: Berger, Colligan, Kling, Hotinski and Kantorczyk.

    What do you think about:

    the switch to reporting the check register by pay period in alphabetical order. This seems arbitrary; when asked why, no reason was provided.

    Do you think citizens have a right to scan the check register and see how checks were disbursed in the order in which they were disbursed?

    Do you think there is anything wrong with Board Committee Members remaining silent when asked about this switch.

    Do you think it is important to know how and why the checks are recorded in the register the way they are recorded?

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    I don’t understand why the need for the change. The check register listed the checks in order of dollar amounts. Even listing checks by dollar amount is useless because there was no explanation on the reasons/purposes of the checks. I don’t think that the public needs to know the purpose behind every check but … how about for checks that are over $10K or $20K. It’s remarkable how many checks (and the associated dollar amounts!) that are written every month to attorneys and to the architects Daley & Jalboot. Ken Roos and the architects appear to be on permanent retainer with the school district. Contracts with the teachers and TENIG are reviewed — does anyone ever review the contracts with the attorneys and architects? Are their fees in line with others doing similar work? It seems that it would be fiscally responsible to review these apparent automatic renewal contracts.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    $12 million flowed through the TESD payment system in July and August (in addition to payroll). I completely agree that a brief description of the less obvious high dollar items would be useful, plus commentary on a few other things that might catch the eye. I imagine that there are already internal controls that monitor the spending. It’s interesting that even with BYOD we paid Apple Inc. $95,000 one week.

    The professional services contracts are generally approved by the Board without discussion as part of the Consent Agenda. I recall that the Solicitor fee has been going up, but the D&J Rate came down during the recent recession and has not since increased. It would be interesting to look at the Quantity side of that equation.

    The 10 -12 pages of transactions every month (50/page) illustrate the scale of the TESD enterprise. I’ve argued that it would be a useful exercise to budget all this expenditure from the ground up rather than budget incremental change by large expense category. This is not an exercise to be undertaken lightly or frequently, and there doesn’t seem to be any current appetite for it. Perhaps the new Board will want to look under the hood?

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  8. I want to update the maintenance/storage building project .the DEMO of the old building is taking place today.. It was “nice” of TESD to update the website last night and send a NEW letter to the Old Lancaster RD neighbors today…The old letter from August 3 had the wrong construction info plus it lacked any mention of the district website. It took a great deal of pleading at meetings ( 2 Facility and 2 School board) to get this revised letter. WHY is it so hard for TESD to communicate and work with their neighbors??? I have to thank Michele Burger for speaking up for Old Lanc Rd residents Monday night and making this updated letter happen. I am also very grateful to Tredyffrin Township and all the others who have been so personally supportive during this process.

    [Reply]

  9. Could you expand on:

    It took a great deal of pleading at meetings ( 2 Facility and 2 School board) to get this revised letter.

    When letters are written, who signs them? Who’s responsibility is it to write letters to the neighbors informing them about the maintenance building progress?

    What do Board Members say when you ask for updates on the project and you tell them you don’t receive updates until after the work is started or completed?

    It sounds like the Board doesn’t think it’s necessary to give neighbors updates.

    [Reply]

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