Judge Tells Lower Merion School District to Revoke Tax Hike — Could the same thing happen in T/E School District?

A significant decision in the Arthur Wolk vs Lower Merion School District (click on bolded link to read 17 pg. decision) case  was rendered by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Smyth this week.  Judge Smyth ordered Lower Merion School District to revoke its tax hike, claiming that the school district could not increase taxes for 2016-17 by more than 2.4 percent. If a Lower Merion resident could take on his school district for over-taxing (and win), this decision has far-reaching ramifications for other school districts, including T/E School District. Not only front page news locally in the Philadelphia Inquirer but the Associated Press has picked up the story with articles appearing in the Washington Post, Boston Globe and beyond.

In his decision, Judge Smyth ruled that Lower Merion School District had consistently understated revenues and overstated expenses so it could falsely raise taxes when in fact it had huge surpluses. TE School District residents are you listening?  Our school district has raised taxes for the last 12 years (see chart below) and continues to build its fund balance. The TE School District fund balance as of June 2016 school board meeting is $32,381,047. Just like Lower Merion School District, our school district continues to raise taxes and increase the fund balance. Folks, that is $32+ millions of taxpayer dollars!

Taxpayers in TE School District have seen their taxes increased for the last twelve years as follows:

  • 2016-17: 3.6%
  • 2015-16: 3.81%
  • 2014-15: 3.4%
  • 2013-14: 1.7%
  • 2012-13: 3.3%
  • 2011-12: 3.77%
  • 2010-11: 2.9%
  • 2009-10: 2.95%
  • 2008-09: 4.37%
  • 2007-08: 3.37%
  • 2006-07: 3.90%
  • 2005-06: 1.40%
  • 2004-05: Zero Tax Increase

Will the Court’s decision to revoke Lower Merion School District tax challenge the TE School Board to reconsider their budgeting approach?

Attending TESD Finance and School Board meetings over the years, we have witnessed knowledgeable, educated residents appeal to the District on this subject – Ray Clarke, Neal Colligan, Doug Anestad, etc. have repeatedly weighed in on financial issues with their comments and suggestions. The discussion of the TESD 2016-17 budget even had former Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Mike Heaberg  attempting to reason with the school board.  Sadly, the school board does not listen – but continues to increase our taxes, build its mountain of “fund balance” dollars and, for the most part, does so with a unanimous 9-0 vote.  Where does it end?

Having read the decision in the Lower Merion School District case, Neal Colligan (with input from Ray Clarke) provides the following economic analysis between LM and TE school districts.  Thank you both – and here’s hoping that the TE School Board reads it!

I know we’ve all been reading with great interest the results of the Lower Merion tax case which made its way to page 1 of the Inquirer today.  This is frighteningly similar to the operations of our School District and I thought it might be interesting to do some comparisons.

The resident case against the LMSD basically argued that they had District had entered into a pattern of projecting annual operating deficits during their budget (and tax rate increase) process and ended each year with large surpluses.  The lower Court judge agreed and ordered LMSD to rescind some of their current tax increase.  As you know; we’ve experienced the exact same pattern in T/E.  For each of the last 5 years; the District has projected a deficit in its budget deliberations; set an aggressive tax (sometimes the Max allowed in the Commonwealth) increase to “close the gap” ; and each year ended in a Surplus position.  It might be fun to dig deeper.

LM’s current budget allocates approximately $259 MM to District spending; T/E’s current budget is about $131 MM…just about half the size.  According to the press releases; LM accumulated $40 MM in Fund Balance over the last 6 years (16% of current budget); T/E has accumulated about $13 MM (10% of current budget).  In the prior six years LM taxes increases have been 21.01%; in T/E we’ve had 18.68%. (The Judge’s order states that since 2006 LMSD has increased its taxes by 53%; the increase in T/E has been 38%.  I used the more narrow, recent figure as LM’s increases were skewed in the early years).   LM’s accumulated Fund Balance is reported at over $57 MM (all Fund/Capital accounts included); T/E’s is about $42 MM (this includes Fund Balance and Capital Fund which was funded by Fund Balance transfer)…about 74% of LM.  Let’s go deeper: The Court commented in the LM suit that the District’s average overestimation of expenses was 5.5% and the average underestimation of revenues was 1.1%.  T/E has a similar history (I say it differently); in the last 10 years, our District has spent about 96% of its budgeted expenses (this budget drives the tax increase obviously) and collects about 101% of its budgeted revenue.  Does it all seem similar?

Some other interesting notes.  LM Enrollment growth in the last 4 years-9.03%; T/E Enrollment growth 1.46% (this statistic was used in the LM budget presentation to justify the tax increase).  Students (approximate): LM-8,200; T/E; 6,400.  Years in the last 6 that tax increase was in excess of Act 1: LM-6; T/E-5.  EIT in community: LM-No; T/E-No.  Special Education budget: LM-$46 MM; T/E-$20 MM.  Salaries: LM-$123 MM; T/E-$57 MM.

In many ways, we compare favorably to LM.  Remember that LM spends the highest amount on a per-student basis in the State.  Without getting too far into the weeds; the fact remains that we, like our neighbors in LM, have been given deficit budgets in each of the last 5 years followed by “necessary” aggressive tax increases.  Our results have been a production of SURPLUS in each of those years; just like LM.  That’s the fact pattern that this suit took to question.  The same fact pattern exists here…almost precisely.  It’s nothing new; we’ve talked about in the T/E Finance Committee meeting for years BUT now there’s a new finding from the Courts.

Come to your own conclusions…the facts are pretty easy to find.

28 Comments

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  1. It seems as though the judicial branch has had enough of conceited, self-serving School District Administrations and Boards. Judge Smyth follows hot on the heels of Judge Sommer’s castigation of the TE School Board in the residency case. It’s behavior like this (from the “education elite” in this case) that is fueling much of the Presidential campaign, too. Here’s one extract from the injunction:

    “Taxpayers and the public should be entitled to expect that governmental units taxing them will not year after year pursuant to a systematic pattern present them with projected deficits to justify raising taxes, raise taxes as a consequence, then record actual massive surpluses in the general fund at the end of each fiscal year, only to transfer the surpluses into other, designated accounts so that the source of the funds cannot be readily determined by those not directly involved in the governmental unit’s financial affairs.”

    Did T/E engage in the “systematic pattern”? Well, I can’t recall for sure (it was a long time ago), but I think I first brought up the issue of “breakage” in the decade-ago era when Kevin Mahoney was Chair of the TESD Finance Committee. This is the $1 million a year over-estimation of expenses that results from retiring staff being replaced by new staff lower on the pay scale and from staff leaves of absence. Only in the last year has this been recognized in the budget, and then only a nominal amount based on staff notifications, not the actual history. Exactly like Lower Merion! Wilful disregard of the facts!

    CM readers should look in the injunction for other parallels to TE. Here’s one:

    “Although the District’s business manager had looked at the final projections the month before, he testified, not entirely credibly in the Court’s estimation, that he was unable to predict whether there would be a surplus or deficit at the end of the fiscal year which came to a close little more than two weeks after the hearing.”

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  2. Definitely not a pattern. It’s a secret policy model employed by who knows how many districts nationwide.

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    Shining Light Reply:

    I agree with Will13.

    It’s a Budget Model adopted years ago for the purpose of growing the base.

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  3. Ray, your willingness to use a blanket description of all District administrators and school board members as “conceited” and “self-serving” is clearly offensive. All of them members of the “educational elite”? Ascribing behavior like theirs as “fueling much of the Presidential campaign?”

    Ridiculous commentary that is beneath you. You’ve contributed many thoughtful comments to this blog and at school board meetings over the years. But this language is over the top.

    To add insult to injury, you link the court decision against the District on the matter of residency with the School Board’s decision to raise taxes. Both cases of bad judgment in your view? In my opinion, they are hardly related. The District relied on legal advice in the former. The members of the School Board did their due diligence in reaching the decision to raise taxes to cover budgeted expenses in the latter.

    The issue of fund balance use was discussed on many occasions and questioned repeatedly by you, Neal and others at public meetings. It got a full airing. In the Board’s judgment, it was prudent to take into account future obligations in excess of Act 1 taxing authority and to maintain a fund balance to cover them. The issue of overstating projected expenses as the basis for significant tax increases and then not defraying future tax increases by prior year surpluses is one worthy of your continued attention. But unlike you, I am not sure this reflects a pattern deliberately used to accumulate fund balance.

    You have publicly questioned this decision and disagreed, which is your right. However, I think you have gone too far in judging our School Board members as educational elites whose egos are large and motivations are self-serving. They each serve on behalf of their constituents, for four-year terms, for ZERO compensation. They must work to earn the voters’ trust and are subject to their decisions at the ballot box.

    Of course those of you who are so invested in making big changes in the way our top-ranked district is run are free to run for office – with all the effort that entails.

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    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Kathleen:

    I can only look at the data.

    Re the pattern of judicial rebukes, it’s not just on the Main Line, of course, that Judges are using pointed language. As I’ve noted on CM before, there’s that Federal Appeals court ruling on the NC voter ID law; upset, in that case, with the political “elite”:
    “The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist”…. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.”

    It seems to me inescapable that insurgent Presidential campaigns have gained traction because voters feel that they are being manipulated by special interests. When Judge Smyth rails against LMSD’s “legerdemain”, he is reflecting just that.

    There is no doubt that Lower Merion is the poster child for abuse of the state’s education funding system. I think that it’s not a stretch to thank community engagement for T/E’s slightly better standing, and a number of our Board members have tried to follow the lead set recently by Rev Dorsey. However, T/E and very many School Districts play the charade of Fund Balance allocation in order to squirrel away taxpayer funds. The community has highlighted this for years, but it’s taken this judge to really pull off the covers:

    “Similarly, the District had, at the time of the hearing, $15,300,000 in a “committed fund balance” (Injunctive Relief Tr. 226:15) for retirement, but that fund was not being used for pensions or to reduce the District’s contributions to pensions, which were being funded out of the budget each and every year.”

    The T/E Board may have thought its own similar approach “prudent”, but is it legal?

    In addition to its $9.3 million PSERS “commitment”, T/E has $14 million of “commitments” for benefits for past and future employees, similarly funded every year directly out of operating funds.

    There are many ways to engage in the political process. There are natural public faces – Andy Dinniman springs to mind – and then there are those better suited to support those in the limelight that share their views, are willing to apply critical thought to their task and,yes, try to step back from “elite” thinking.

    One action that residents could take now would be to engage with our state representatives to improve an education funding system that clearly needs it. A Special Education tax that’s based on two-year old expenses? Manipulating the Fund Balance to keep the unassigned portion below 8% of the budget? That’s crazy.

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    will13 Reply:

    what exactly has dorsey done other than do a complete 180 on his campaign promise to not privatize?

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Kathleen, you say the Board relied on legal advice on the matter of residency. Look how that turned out.

    Does the Board bare no responsibility in continuing to tolerate legal advice that results in our current pressing problems?

    Why does the Board continue to seek legal advice from a Solicitor who is clearly and repeatedly negligent (see Judge Sommers statement) in their duty to the District?

    I think Ray makes good points and he has a right to make them any way he wants to make them. Any citizen who spends as much time and effort and gives as much careful thought to District matters like Ray does and expresses himself so clearly and intelligently at just about every school Board meeting held, has nothing but my gratitude and respect.

    I don’t recall seeing you at many meetings Kathleen. Maybe you would understand better if you put in the time and effort like Ray does week in and week out. Come to a meeting.

    This District owes a deep debt of gratitude to Ray and Neal and Doug and Pattye and all the others who make it their mission to shine light on issues that effect all members of this community.

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  4. Actually Kathleen, the Fund Balance discussion has not occurred. We were promised that the Board would “drill down” on that topic this year. As Residents have offerred in these meetings, the accumulation of capital may be a proper strategy; just inform the taxpayers of the plan. Currently there is no admitted plan to accumulate capital that has ever been stated publicly.

    It’s one of the reasons that it was suggested that this year’s $1 million surplus be used to offset the current tax increase. I liked that idea.

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    Pattye Reply:

    I specifically recall Kate Murphy asking (at either a Finance Committee meeting or Budget workshop) about having a Fund Balance discussion. Kate was told by Virginia Lastner, Finance Committee chair, that we would have a full discussion on that topic … but so far that discussion on fund balance (and its use) has yet to materialize.

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  5. A fund balance discussion would help. The Board in its power can always raise taxes up to the Act 1 index. The additional exceptions can or can not be applied for by the Board. Just because you can tax doesn’t mean you should.

    The get the money while you can theory because if you don’t raise taxes you never get the chance to recover those lost taxes is also a theory used in the past. So. I agree that there should be explanations given to the stakeholders that are legitimate reasons for not using more fund balance or for raising taxes or vice a Versa.

    Neal and Ray are sharing their opinions and comparisons to LM. Good comparisons. Ray has used the residency case and the tax increase as examples of Board decisions that were both influenced by counsel involving tax dollars misused. If there were not 100% tax collected, these thousands of dollars would not be spent without common sense budgeting.

    The Board should listen to the public or risk class action by raising taxes when fund balance is available.

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  6. Most people don’t understand the judicial decision. If you’d like to read the decision it can be purchased here for $1.78.
    https://courtsapp.montcopa.org/psi/v/detail/Case/201036049#/Docket/10572460/doc
    Maybe Pattye will buy it and publish it here for all to read.
    I’m no legal expert, but here is my interpretation.

    Q: Does the decision force TE to use fund balance to reduce taxes or put limits on the amount of money TE can put in their “piggy bank”?
    A: As long as the district is truthful with their budgeting and transparent with the public, the board can choose to amass any amount they feel necessary for the financial health of the district. The decision in no way forces a reduction in fund balance or the use of fund balance to reduce taxation. What the district cannot do is “present them [the public] with projected deficits to justify raising taxes, raise taxes as a consequence, then record actual massive surpluses in the general fund at the end of each fiscal year, only to transfer the surpluses into other, designated accounts so that the source of the funds cannot be readily determined by those not directly involved in the governmental unit’s financial affairs”. (quote from the judicial decision)

    Q: Does the decision limit the taxing ability of TE?
    A: As long as the district is truthful with their budgeting and transparent with the public, the board can choose to tax at any level consistent with Act 1 just as they have in the past.

    Q: Does the decision limit the taxing ability of Lower Merion?
    A: Yes, for one year. The judge imposed a mild penalty on LM making them roll back their tax increase from 4.44% to 2.4%. LM will still have the funds necessary to provide the same excellent education that was planned months ago. What LM will not have is the massive year end surplus that was hidden from the public and only administrative “insiders” knew about.

    Q: Did the judge take decision making power away from the school board?
    A: No. The judge stepped in only because he found “a persistent, unbroken pattern for many years of budgeting … for multimillion-dollar deficits, publishing these budgetary estimates to the public, raising taxes for the fiscal year ahead, and always experiencing multimillion-dollar surpluses by the end of the fiscal year”. (quote from the decision) The judge only reiterated the already existing obligation of the district to be truthful during the budget process.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks Keith for your comment but there’s no need for me or anyone else to purchase the decision — if you click on the hyperlink in the first line (Arthur Wolk vs Lower Merion School District) of my latest post, it will take you to a pdf of the 17 page decision.

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  7. Hi Pattye,
    It’s not obvious; at least not to me. You might want to add descriptive text to make it obvious for quick readers.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    OK, I have now ‘bolded’ the link and added text to click to read the 17 pg. decision.

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  8. Pattye, it is unfortunate that your post presents the issue in such a one sided fashion. It remains to be seen if the decision will stand. As a long term resident of the district, a parent of two children, and someone who has taken the time to attend board finance committee meetings, I have grown to appreciate the challenges the board faces and the seriousness with which they execute their responsibilities. I have been present to witness some of the questioning and arguments put forth by the gentlemen you mention – and frankly they leave me unimpressed. I think your readers would be well served to consider an alternative viewpoint: https://www.psba.org/2016/08/psba-statement-lower-merion-school-district-tax-levy-injunction/

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    Pattye Reply:

    Paul, thank you for adding your comment to the discussion. As you have your opinion on the issue, others are permitted to have theirs. Yearly budget surpluses and twelve years of tax increases is what has guided my opinion. I believe the budget surplus this year was only $1 million — I say only because in 2014, I offered that the budget surplus was $12.4 million over the previous 4 years as follows:
    2013-14: $2.2 million
    2012-13: $5.0 million
    2011-12: $3.9 million
    2010-11: $1.3 million
    Total: $12.4 million

    Taxes have continued to go up and yet there is “found money’ each year. I find it unfair that our taxes continue to go up but yet there is a yearly budget surplus. For me, the two do not equate.

    http://pattyebenson.org/2014/11/14/multi-million-te-budget-surplus-again-12-4-million-surplus-in-4-years-property-tax-increases-for-10-years-in-a-row-and-still-no-health-insurance-for-aidesparas/

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Paul,

    I’m sorry I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you at Finance committee meetings I’ve attended.

    Could you please expand on your statement that:

    I have grown to appreciate the challenges the board faces and the seriousness with which they execute their responsibilities.

    Board Directors ask little to no questions in Finance Meetings. It’s clear they have not looked at the Budget before Art roles it out and it is accepted practice that Business Manager Art’s role is to “teach them” the budget. Talk about one sided. Art created the budget.

    Shouldn’t Directors have a working knowledge of the budget BEFORE finance meetings? Shouldn’t meetings be about questioning Art about his strategies and methodology and discussing alternative ways to balance the budget?

    Instead, the meetings are nothing more than a classroom lecture, where Art is their teacher and the Directors are his students. One of the Directors told me to be quiet in Finance Committee Meetings. He’s a lawyer for goodness sakes and said, “When you ask questions, I can’t hear and concentrate on what the Business Manager is trying to teach me. I’m a Catholic school boy. I keep my head down, write down what they’re saying and keep quiet.”

    We don’t need school boys who write down and accept everything the B.M. “teaches” him. We need smart creative leaders and thinkers like Ray, Neal and Doug who prepare themselves for meetings and who don’t rely on the B.M. to “teach” them about the budget that the B.M. created. Talk about one sided! If you want to be a follower, don’t run for leadership positions.

    Ray, Neal and Doug have for years reported in Finance and Board Meetings exactly what the Judge said in his decision on Aug. 29th.

    The only comment a Director (Virginia Lastner) gave in response to Neal after he again described the deficit projection, followed by massive tax increases resulting in millions in surplus pattern that the judge identified as illegal was:

    ——–“Well I can assure you the extra money goes for education” ——-

    Is that Virginia’s definition of “drilling down?”

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Paul,

    Thank-you for the link to the PSBA (PA School Board Association)noting their statement on the tax levy injunction.

    In the decision by the Judge in the Court of Common Pleas it states that:

    In this case the School District, as it had done over the previous years covered by the testimony,—– obtained such approval from the Department of Education——— to raise taxes by 4.44%, that is, 2.04% beyond the 2.4% index,

    The PSBA states:

    A court of common pleas has no power to issue orders that effectively overturn the Department’s decisions and usurp its authority. The court’s decision incorrectly assumes that the Department does not have critical information it needs to make such decisions, when in fact all relevant information is regularly submitted and available to the Department.

    If the Department of Education has critical information needed to make the decision to allow school Districts to raise taxes for years, resulting in surpluses, why wasn’t this information revealed in the hearing? Isn’t that the purpose of a hearing? To reveal all information available and used in the decision making process?

    I’m confused, could you please explain. Thanks.

    Since Keith was a witness for the Plaintiff’s (taxpayers) maybe he would like to explain. Thanks Keith.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Keith,

    You were Arthur Wolk’s inspiration. You went to his house. You were his only witness. This would not happened without you.

    I didn’t know that District’s could seek approval for tax hikes from the Department of Education. Is that what TE does too? To get around a referendum, we get permission from the Department of Education to impose tax increases of 3.5 to 4.4% every year?

    What is the Department of Education? Who are the folks who make up the Department of Education?

    Thanks to Paul Eisenberg, we now know that the Department of Education has critical information needed to make the decision to allow L.M. (and TE?) to raise taxes for years? What is this information no one seems to know except the DOE? Why don’t we know it?

    Who is the PSBA? (PA School Board Association) Are they elected? Appointed? How many are there? Does this region have a rep on the PSBA?

    Keith, now you’re going radio silent? Come on man. I know you have all the answers.

    [Reply]

  9. 1.TE has audits. A good idea would be an independent financial review not hired by or for the District. It may illuminate some better ways to manage tax dollars. Every system can improve. There is always a better way to stretch the dollar and get value. Hire a consultant to review the organization?
    2.Yes there will be an appeal to a higher court. The appellate court will review facts and evidence and or judicial indiscretions. Unlikely to win an appeal on the facts.
    3. Common sense is the schools should not collect more taxes then needed. It is unfair to triple AAA rated taxpayers who support education.
    4. Explain where do surpluses go and how surpluses are used within the short term. It should not be a way to BUILD THE BASE. Bonds have already been taken for long term Capitol costs. There may be ways to prevent surplus gathered on the fear of the deficit monsters.
    5. Look at rising health care cost and plateaued self insurance cost control with stop gap insurance. Ask for employees to pay some deductible on their healthy OBC mayrix plan. Premium shares help but ZERO deductibles for employees and their families is unlike the Obama deductibles and entrepreneurial burden of higher premiums and high deductible in the amount of thousands. Even Medicare Medicare plans are heavily managed by CMS government agencies to create cost savings and increase senior out of the pocket costs.
    6. Reinvent reasonable methods to become more transparent and fiscally sound.

    Be hopeful. Stay positive.

    [Reply]

    Shining Light Reply:

    Liz,

    Good thoughts but the last thing we need to do is hire another consultant to review the organization. Look at the fencing consultant hired by Business Manager Art McDonnell. The Board allowed the consultant to release a scathing letter, chastising the public for not going along with the Board’s decision to erect and pay for fencing that makes no sense, that no one wants and that serves no good purpose.

    The hearing officer HIRED BY THE DISTRICT willfully and intentionally left out information that would help the defendant.

    We find that the hearing officer willfully and deliberately disregarded competent portions of (the father’s) testimony and relevant evidence which one of ordinary intelligence could not possibly have avoided in reaching a result, thus making his credibility determination arbitrary and capricious,” Sommer wrote.

    Sommer also pointed out the hearing officer was employed by the school district. “It takes no great leap of faith to recognize that the hearing officer is being paid by TESD, their ‘adversary,”” he wrote.

    http://pattyebenson.org/2016/08/18/the-saga-continues-in-te-school-district-court-rules-against-te-school-district-regarding-residency-of-alleged-hazing-victim/

    The results have shown that when Bus. Manager Art McDonnell hires a consultant, he hires one that supports the conclusion he wants supported regardless of citizen opinion or fair play in court.

    1.) Form a citizens audit review committee.

    2.) Elect Directors who don’t sit silently by when the Solicitor blasts a Fog Horn during Public Comment Section in order to “duck” difficult questions.

    3.) Elect Directors who will embrace citizens, and welcome their input.

    4.) Elect Directors who understand that it is citizens right to question EVERYTHING Government does. Whether they agree or disagree, Directors have to understand it is their duty to defend with all their might, citizens rights to say whatever they want to say in an open meeting.

    5.) Elect Directors who understand that Districts are better when citizens hold it accountable.

    It starts and ends with our elected officials.

    4 seats are open in just over a year.

    If we want change, that’s where to go to get it.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    S/L, thank you for your comment — it is up to the residents to elect those candidates for the school board that will best represent them. Do you homework and know the candidates. If the candidates are currently serving school board directors, know their votes on important issues. The terms of these school board directors are up in 2017 — Doug Carlson, Virginia Lastner, Kevin Buraks and Scott Dorsey. I don’t know whether they are seeking re-election. Carlson and Lastner are from Easttown Twp and Buraks and Dorsey are Tredyffrin Twp.

    [Reply]

    margaritiaville Reply:

    i am not sure of the political party makeup of this board, but I believe it isn’t all Republican.. correct me if im wrong…interesting…

    Pattye Reply:

    According to this MLMN article, http://www.mainlinemedianews.com/articles/2015/11/04/main_line_times/news/doc563a16219590e124572214.txt , all five open school director seats in Nov. 2015 were won by Democrats. I do not know the party affiliation of the remaining 4 directors, but we do know that the Dems are in the majority.

  10. When I googled Department of Education, I was directed to the State Board of Education who works closely with the Department of Education.
    Please read:

    http://www.stateboard.education.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx

    The State Board works closely with the Department of Education, state policymakers, and educators to review, develop and adopt regulations that govern significant components of both basic and higher education in the Commonwealth.

    Am I correct that Hon. Carol Aichele (2018), Kate Murphy’s mother is on the State Board under Council of Basic Education?

    If true, did Kate reveal this conflict of interest (and I just didn’t hear it?) when she ran for School Board Director representing Easttown Township?

    Very revealing, Kate a R., goes along with everything Administrators propose with cheerleader like enthusiasm.

    Wow!

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    Although not widely publicized, I don’t think Kate Murphy kept this information from people. In a post following the May 2015 primary election, I wrote the following:

    Murphy is the daughter of a well-known local political family, Steve and Carol Aichele. Steve Aichele served as the Chief of Staff for former PA Governor Tom Corbett. Carol Aichele served as Secretary of the Commonwealth under Corbett and previously served as a Chester County Commissioner and TE School Board member.

    [Reply]

  11. thanks Pattye.. my reasoning for asking is that secrecy and ill manners at meetings and concern for good governance by the electorate knows no bounds when it comes to political parties.. I think when the Repubs ruled the roost there was a backround din about their majority and control.. interesting that as far as I have heard, there is no claim being made specifically how the majority democratic board has created the same discomfort among many.. thats all.. the bottom line is we need meetings run well and fairly, that includes respect going both ways, a reasonable amount of transparency and a minimum of conflict of interest issues… Reverend Dorsey was elected as a shining light and new blood to a staid board… has he and the other newbies lived up to their billing, or have they fallen into the same “trap” and become the walled off government employee?

    [Reply]

  12. I attended the last 20 minutes of the Facilities meeting and the first 15 minutes of the Policy meeting last night at District Offices.

    We not only need to exercise term limits for Directors serving SIXTEEN YEARS IN OFFICE, to prevent against pet projects like $6M maintenance buildings, we need to exercise term limits for consultants and vendors too.

    The Architect, the Lawyer and the Business Manager have been in the district too long, they are very comfortable talking to Directors (especially new ones) in a way that makes an observer feel that the Directors work for them instead of the other way around.

    Ed Sweeney asked very good, well thought out questions about the proposal and timing to replace the turf. The consultant was short, condescending and indignant to Ed’s questions which I thought were great and showed that Ed has the very best interests of the tax payers in mind when in these meetings. Thanks Ed.

    The turf is a little worn with no safety concerns. The Villanova facility is under construction so CHS graduation will take place on the turf this year and maybe next. Ed brought up the great point that, “Hey, is it a good idea to get the turf after graduations? when thousands of people won’t be traipsing all over it?

    Had Ed not asked these questions, none of this would be public view. Thanks Ed! Keep asking questions and representing citizens you were elected to serve.

    [Reply]

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