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2012 Township Budget and T/E School Board Updates

Today’s post includes notes from the Board of Supervisors and T/E School Board meetings held last night. Although a prior commitment prevented me from attending last night’s BOS and school board meeting, Ray and Carol Clarke attended the meetings and graciously forwarded their notes.  I attended a TMACC (Transportation Management Association of Chester County) meeting and will provide a 202 project –Stage 3 update separately.

At the prior BOS meeting, the preliminary 2012 budget was presented which included a millage increase 6.9% for real estate taxes to cover the $500K deficit.  The supervisors left that meeting with determination to review the budget and look for opportunities for further reductions and to take a hard look at expenditures and services before approving any tax increase.

The supervisors continued the budget discussion at last night’s meeting. In their review of the preliminary budget, the supervisors found some ways to decrease expenditures and as a result reduced the tax increase from the initial 6.9% to 3.5%.

The supervisors propose decreasing expenditures in several ways:

1) Reduction of professional fees by $49.7K

2) Use the Capital Fund to fund IT equipment – 67.5K (This changes the revenue source from the Operating Fund to Capital Fund)

3) Supervisors asked township manager to find $45K in reductions. (Not clear on how this will be accomplished; further discussion is required).

4) Defer the hiring of 2 full-time (currently open positions) in the Police Department until July – $85K savings

5) Associated savings in benefits due to #4 – $45K

To lower the tax increase to 3.5%, the supervisors are proposing a combination of decreased expenditures and the using fund balance reserves for the remaining budget shortfall. Based on the 2011 budget process and the severe cuts that were required, I am not sure where Mimi Gleason is going to find $45K in reductions for the 2012 budget. Reductions in the healthcare benefits could produce significant savings for the budget; but apparently due to contract negotiations may not be an option.   If a reduction in benefits is off the table as a possible solution, it is not clear what remains that could be reduced.

The 2012 budget will have another final review at the next BOS meeting on December 19. If we want to feel better about our potential 3.5% tax increase, we need look no further than to our next-door neighbors.  In Phoenixville, residents are facing a potential 19 percent tax increase to close their 2012 budget deficit.  And remember, they pay an Earned Income Tax in Phoenixville!

The T/E School Board meeting was a very short meeting.  With a 9-0 vote of confidence, Karen Cruickshank was elected to president and Betsy Fadem as vice president of the school board.  Cruickshank will choose the committee chairs and members this week.  There are significant Finance and Facilities Committee meetings planned for next week.  With the loss of Kevin Mahoney on the school board, the School Board is going to be challenged with the Finance Committee.

In my review of the agenda for last night’s school board meeting, I was disturbed to read that the Public Information Committee would be abolished.  Debbie Bookstaber’s presence on the school board had encouraged transparency and public information.  Without her advocacy for transparency, it may be challenging for us to receive information during the contract negotiations.

Apparently, the board defended its actions to abolish the Public Information Committee last night, with the feeling that each school board committee should be responsible for their communications.  Without the Public Information Committee holding the board to a high communications standard, it becomes the responsibility of the taxpayers to play watchdog.  The school board members agreed that if a future need required it, the Public Information Committee could be re-instituted.  Why do I feel like we are going backwards with this decision instead of forward?

Now that Debbie Bookstaber is off the school board, maybe she will join the conversation on Community Matters.  Her insight as a recent school board director could be extremely valuable in the upcoming teacher contract negotiations.

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