Karen Cruikshank

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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What do Sidewalks, McKenzie’s Brew House and St. Davids Golf Club have in common? Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors Meeting

Today’s post includes a roundup on a variety of topics. 

Due to President’s Day, Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting will be Monday, February 28.  Based on the length of the agenda, we could be in for a long evening!  Here are some of the scheduled highlights: 

Sidewalk Subcommittee Presentation – This is the third attempt at this presentation; the first date cancelled because Bob Lamina was out-of-town and the second date was rescheduled because presenter and subcommittee chair Tory Snyder. 

A bit of Sidewalk Subcommittee history . . . Do you remember Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting back on February 22, 2010? If you recall, there was much debate about the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk requirement in their land development plan.  First, the supervisors voted to return the $25K sidewalk escrow to St. Davids and then, based on public opinion, opted to reverse the decision in February 2010.  

Because of the St. Davids escrow debate, a Sidewalks Subcommittee was formed to review (with public input) the future construction of sidewalks and bike lanes in the township. The township continues to hold St. Davids sidewalk escrow pending the outcome of the Sidewalk Subcommittee’s recommendation and then ultimate vote of the Board of Supervisors relative to sidewalk requirements in the township.  Understanding the open liability issues on land development projects, the sidewalk subcommittee was presented with an end-of-the-year timeline to present the supervisors with their recommendations. Public hearings and a public survey were included in the sidewalk subcommittee analysis.  It is my understanding from attending their meetings that St. Davids sidewalk is included in the sidewalk presentation.

Interesting agenda item:  Schedule a public hearing on March 7, 2011 to consider a liquor license transfer in the Township – I was curious about this agenda item and contacted Mimi Gleason and discovered some potentially good news for the township.  McKenzie’s Brew House is expanding and is interested in a location in Tredyffrin – the old Charlie Brown Restaurant location in the Valley Fair Shopping Center.  This will be a multi-municipality liquor license transfer, as they will be moving the license from the old Basil’s in Willistown Twp to the Charlie Brown location.  According to Mimi, this transfer does not require any sign-off from Willistown, just needs our supervisors support and approval.  Moving to the same shopping center (in the Bargain Bookstore – Tuesday Morning location) is Meeley’s Furniture Store, taking both floors. Filling empty retail and restaurant locations is good news for the local economy!

Planning Commission Annual Report – listed as an agenda item, I admit I do not recall the Planning Commission making a public presentation of the annual reports in the past. Wonder if there is any relationship between the timing of this annual report and the upcoming Public Hearing on March 21 to discuss an amendment to the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance giving the Board of Supervisors the authority for approval or denial of a land development plan. (Currently this authority is with the Planning Commission). 

Newly appointed supervisor Mike Heaberg will be taking his place for the first time at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  I wish Mike well and know that his financial expertise and independent views will prove an asset to the community.  Speaking of supervisors, the candidate petition signing is underway for the school board and the board of supervisors.  On the school board side, I cannot offer much public information, except that five of the nine school board seats available.  Three of the five current school board members will seek re-election (Karen Cruickshank, Jim Bruce, and Pete Motel) and two board members will not (Kevin Mahoney, Debbie Bookstaber). I do not believe the slate of school board candidates is finalized – I think the deadline is March 8 for petition signatures. 

Tredyffrin’s GOP held their endorsement meeting this week and endorsed Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock as Republican at-large supervisor candidates.  Heaberg was also endorsed to run in the special supervisor election.  Paul Olson and John DiBuonaventuro were endorsed as eastern and western district Republican supervisor candidates.  On the Democratic side, opposing Heaberg and Mayock, as at-large candidates are Molly Duffy and Ernie Falcone.  It is my understanding there will not be a Democratic candidate for the western district slot.  I am unsure if either Duffy or Falcone will oppose Heaberg in the special election. 

Here’s an interesting and creative way to increase revenue for the school district.  There is a proposal in Radnor School District for ‘naming’ opportunities.  The current policy on the ‘naming’ of school facilities is restricted to honoring community members for their contribution to the community or school district.  By relaxing the naming requirements may offer some financial benefits to the school district.  This idea has some potential . . . a science lab, a hallway; the auditorium . . . all could have naming opportunities.  Maybe the school district permits the naming on a yearly basis and the naming opportunity goes to the highest bidder.  Just a thought . . . TESD, any interest?

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News from Last night’s Board of Supervisors Meeting and T/E School Board Meeting

If you were late arriving to Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting than you were out of luck.  Literally from the time the pledge of allegiance was finished, the supervisors meeting was over within 10 minutes.  Bob Lamina read the announcements which included the Public Meeting on Wednesday, December 8 in regards to the Amtrak 252 bridge project, including an update on the Feasibility Study.  Meeting to be held 7-9 PM at Delaware Valley Friends School.  The other announcement was to remind residents that there is an expected vacancy on the Board of Supervisors due to Warren Kampf’s recent election to the state legislature.  Those interested in filling the anticipated vacancy are asked to send a resume to Mimi Gleason by 12/31.

There was no new business from supervisors and no residents comments.  It may have been the shortest meeting in township history. 

News from the T/E School Board.  The election of the school board president and vice president was on last night’s agenda.  I am pleased to announce that Karen Cruikshank was elected president and Betsy Fadem, the out-going president, was elected vice-president.  These positions are two-year terms.  With the school district deficit, teacher contract negotiations and looming PSERS issues in Harrisburg, the challenges are there for our School Board.  Best wishes and good luck to Karen and the other school board members as they struggle with our challenging economic times.  Residents are fortunate to have such qualified school board members to guide the school district.

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