T/E School Board Candidate Question #2: Financial Management

Here is the full list of candidates running for T/E School Board – See Question #2 and the candidate responses below (in alphabetical order by last name).

T/E School Board Region 1 Candidates
Roberta Hotinski (D) Incumbent, unopposed
Todd Kantorczyk (D) Incumbent, unopposed

T/E School Board Region 2 Candidates (2 seats available)
Doug Anestad (I)
Michele Burger (D) Incumbent
Stacy Stone (D)
Ed Sweeney (R) Incumbent

T/E School Board Region 3 Candidates
Mary Garrett Itin (D)* opposed by Nicholas Lee (R)
Incumbent Kate Murphy (R) opposed by Sue Tiede (D)

*Mary Garrett Iten was appointed to the T/E School Board in July 2019 (to fill the seat vacated by Heather Ward) to serve through the December 2, 2019 School Board Reorganization Meeting.

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Question #2:  The school district has acknowledged some lapses in its financial management. What in your background or experience will ensure that the performance is improved going forward?

Doug Anestad Response:

My experience as a project manager in charge of million-dollar projects gives me the experience necessary to understand how budgeting should work and how accountability should happen. I have also been a member of multiple community boards including the president and secretary of my HOA, treasurer and secretary of the Chesterbrook Civic Association, vice president of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, and member of the Tredyffrin Environmental Advisory Council.

As a member of the community, I have already given multiple suggestions to the school board to improve the accuracy of the budgeting process to help avoid the annual “fall surprise” that turns projected deficits into surpluses.

I would push to hold the business manager accountable to his budget projections.  This would ensure that there are not any last-minute surprises, as has happened in the past, when the actual numbers ended up being drastically different from the projected budget.

Michele Burger Response:

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and have been responsible for the budget associated with managing a sales force. I served as PTO president for three years at Valley Forge Elementary school and was responsible for ensuring that fundraising revenue and event expenses were properly accounted for. As an elected representative charged with the responsibility of financial oversight, I will continue to listen and gather expert advise from community members with a background in school budgeting and finance. I will continue to attend Pennsylvania School Board Association sponsored workshops that focus on improving financial planning and budgeting processes. Regarding the management of capital expenditures, I have a track record of saving a significant amount of money on proposed projects by ensuring that the project is a necessity, not a “nicety”.

Roberta Hotinski Response:

I would not agree that the “district has acknowledged some lapses in its fiscal management.” My  experience on the board has indicated that there is a need for improvement in the administration’s communication of financial issues to the board and the public, both in the timeliness and detail of reporting.  I have always advocated for providing detail and context in our financial discussions, but developments over the last year have strengthened my resolve to ensure the administration is more proactive in its communications around fiscal issues.  One improvement that the board has recently introduced to this end is monthly reporting of special education costs to ensure that we are tracking this highly variable expense center to understand its impact on our budget. I support making similar “deep dives” in other areas, including closer looks at major expense and revenue drivers and placing our annual budget in a longer-term context.

Mary Garrett Itin Response:

I have experience working with a team on multi-million dollars County Behavioral Health budgets, providing County oversight for budgets of funded programs, and reporting on outcomes and expenditures for programs funded by state and federal grants.  I am committed to transparency and strengthening our budget process by examining other Act 1 Budget Processes for best practices, working with other Board members to adopt the goal of achieving the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting awarded by the Association of School Business Officials International, and putting 5 years of financial documents on our website.

Todd Kantorczyk Response:

I do not agree that the “school district has acknowledged some lapses in its financial management.”   That said, the district has faced and will continue to face financial challenges, due primarily to increasing enrollment.  I believe I possess the necessary background and experience to ensure that the district continues to meet those challenges in a way that respects funds provided through local tax revenues.  In my professional career, I have provided environmental compliance advice to many businesses ranging from Fortune 100 companies to closely held corporations.  In all instances, it is critical that I understand their business objectives and the associated financial ramifications of the solutions I provide.  These financial issues include: liability reserve estimation and accounting; financing options for mergers, acquisitions, and real estate transactions; and budgeting for construction projects.  Finally, I have gained valuable experience as a member of the Finance Committee, the past three as chair.

Nicholas Lee Response:

Anyone who knows me knows how zealously I commit to combatting injustice. The recent instances of financial mismanagement in our School District’s are an injustice to each and every one of our residents. When we commit financial mistakes, the students and residents suffer and trust in our institutions breaks down. My past and current experience in the realm of financial management consists of serving as a member of the Parish Council Member for St. Katharine of Siena in Wayne, managing budgets as Department Director for the Office of Young Adult Ministry in St. Louis, MO, and conducting an internal audit for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Kate Murphy Response:

Having gone through it over the past four years, I can certainly say there is a learning curve.  And the experience I’ve gained allows me to detect problems and assess options more quickly.  So I’ll be picking up where I left off and more prepared than ever to tackle financial management issues.  But more than anything, good oversight of the district’s finances requires a willingness to question assumptions and to insist on getting answers.  I have done that, repeatedly, on financial and other issues, and I will continue to do so if re-elected.

Stacy Stone Response:

As the supervisor of the Educational Support Services Department (which included After School Programs, Art, ASL, the Educational Resource Center, Library Services, P.E., and Speech) at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, I was charged with oversight of a budget of several million dollars.  I took that charge seriously, and was diligent both in tracking spending and in helping to develop budgets that were fiscally responsible while meeting the needs of our diverse student population.

In T/E, I support consulting an independent Financial Advisor to review best fiscal practices, as well as continuing to find creative strategies to curb costs while maintaining the high quality of our schools during this period of increasing enrollment.

Ed Sweeney Response:

A School Director’s highest priority should be public confidence in our budget process, knowing that the money is going to our students’ education. These reforms were my initiatives:

  • revising policy to address the $1.2 million invoices error never happens again
  • revising the AFRs to correct our submission with the Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • submitting a comprehensive Financial Reform Package to address issues of Financial Accountability

I will continue to fight for financial accountability and will continue to reach out to fellow Board members to seek their votes and support.  The options include personnel change.

I am a plaintiff’s lawyer who fights against big companies and insurers.  I have to confront and/or negotiate on a daily basis.  I have gained trust by 25 years of diligence.  Additionally, I have 25 years of experience on boards and commissions.  I have helped steer institutions in difficult situations which needed to correct course.

Sue Tiede Response:

Throughout my professional career, I have had significant experience and insight into public school budgeting. As the building principal of both Evergreen Elementary in Perkiomen Valley School District and Devon Elementary in T/E School District, I consistently created and adhered to a building budget that provided teachers with the materials and resources required to meet the needs of the children at each grade level. As Director of Personnel for the T/E School District it was my job to monitor student growth in all of the District schools. Using projected enrollment numbers I developed a multimillion dollar salary and benefit budget to responsibly address the staffing needs of the expanding District. These experiences have afforded me a greater appreciation for how to make sure every dollar provided by taxpayers is used most effectively.

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7 Comments

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  1. Both Todd Kantorczyk and Roberta Hotinski disagree with the statement, “The school district has acknowledged some lapses in its financial management”.

    Let’s take the most obvious lapse and one that is well documented and the one that led to the unwarranted proposed 6% tax increase – the mishandling of $1.2M worth of CCIU invoices. It’s a breakdown in the Accounts Payable function in the business office. The invoices were sent by the CCIU and received by the business office, but then misplaced and lost for months resulting in those expenses being booked in the wrong fiscal year. There are other lapses, but if these two board members can’t see this obvious, simple-to-understand lapse there is no reason to enumerate the others.

    When the finance chair (Todd) doesn’t even recognize there is a lapse, the community should be worried, very worried. Accounts Payable is a basic function of the business office.

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  2. This is beyond ridiculous that school board director Todd Kantorcyzk does not understand basic accounting functions and he is chair of the finance committee. Are you kidding me! The board even voted to change the $1.2 million accounting error. If that doesn’t constitute a lapse in financial management, I don’t know what does! And to think that Mr. K. is running unopposed just adds another layer of insult to the taxpayers!

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  3. Roberta says:

    ——/One improvement that the board has recently introduced to this end is monthly reporting of special education costs to ensure that we are tracking this highly variable expense center to understand its impact on our budget. ———

    The Administration uses special education costs as a deflection from talking about the real cost driver in the Budget……..Teacher Administrator salaries and benefits. The teacher contract is up this year. The average teacher salary is $93,000 per year. Many teachers make well over $100,000 per year. It’s a huge issue. I don’t think one candidate mentioned it.

    Roberta talks about special education costs like it’s the real burden. It is not. Roberta, track salaries and benefit costs of District Employees. Programs and services for children should not be used as a scape goat for the real culprit……outlandish salaries and raises for teachers/Administrators.

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  4. Thanks again to Pattye and to the candidates for this really helpful process.

    It’s perplexing to say the least that some candidates can not admit to the financial “lapses” of recent years. However, some changes already made and some of the commitments expressed here can certainly improve the situation.

    Unfortunately, none of the candidates approached the level of specificity that I believe is now required, and which I communicated to the Board in the following:

    “As I understand it, you were recently advised that the $2.8 million deficit projected in June for 2018/19 has turned into a $4 million surplus. It seems to me that this requires you do the following:

    – Commission a detailed third party accounting of the reasons for the misinformation
    – Use that investigation to make fundamental changes to the district’s financial management to eliminate the possibility of this happening again
    – Require a determination of how that surplus carries over into 2019/20, and immediately update the full year projection
    – Use that updated projection, and any future run-rate changes, as the basis for the 2020/21 budget
    – Update Capital Fund transfer plans to retain the fiscally prudent minimum in the General Fund

    This should be the minimum for any Board of Directors of any enterprise that takes its fiduciary duty to heart.”

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  5. How are bonuses evaluated and approved, such as for the administrators and the business manager? Are they judged against YEARLY objectives? Do they ever not achieve 100% of bonus? If so, why are they never given a cut in bonus for lack of action(s) and/or inaction from requests from those in his/her hierarchy of reporting structure? This would be analogous to what is done in the private sector….is should be done for the school system too if it is not done this way.

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    Easttowner Reply:

    T/E Parent,

    Just like raises are granted to teachers, by their own admission, because they deserve it, (District employees call parents “entitled” sounds like it’s the other way around) Administrators receive yearly bonuses no matter what. You make a good point, but bonuses are a small part of the equation. Their salaries which are over the top inflated aren’t even the crux of it.

    Many of them have the strong possibility of making more money in their retirement years than they did in their working years due to their retirement plans which allows them to rake in about as much money as their highest pay when working.

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