redistricting

T/E Taxpayers Draw Short Straw: School Board Approves $4.5 million maintenance building & 3.81% tax increase

Last night’s TE School Board meeting did not mark a good night for the District’s taxpayers!  Many of us left the meeting disheartened and feeling like the warm summer evening would have been better spent with a glass of Chardonnay.  Here are the highlights, or rather low-lights of the meeting.

New Maintenance & Storage Building:   $4.5 million, approved 8-1 (Liz Mercogliano dissenting vote)

The District’s Business Manager Art McDonnell and the architect Tom Daley from Daley & Jalboot presented a lengthy presentation on the proposed $4.5 million maintenance & storage building. Helping to convince that the project was necessary, photos of current overcrowded storage facilities, closets, etc. accompanied the presentation.  Taxpayers did not question that something needed to be done to improve the situation but did question the project’s escalating costs, the Old Lancaster Road location and the treatment of the neighbors. The fantasy architectural drawings indicate a tree-lined boulevard, not the realty of Old Lancaster Road … a narrow residential street of small homes sitting below grade to this new, large maintenance building.

2015-16 Budget: Approved deficit budget with a 3.81% tax increase, 8-1 (Liz Mercogliano dissenting vote).

The 3.81% tax increase marks the eleventh straight year that the TE School Board has raised taxes. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer from Sunday, June 14, the 3.81% tax increase for 2015-16 marks the largest tax increase in Chester County.

The last year the TESD saw no tax increase was 2004-05 as seen below:

• 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

Discretionary compensation increases above the 1.7% contract for Supervisors and Administrators:  Approved 7-2 (Liz Mercogliano and Scott Dorsey dissenting votes)

Valley Forge Middle School Fencing:  Board agreed to further discussion of hiring of a fencing safety consultant at the next Facilities Committee meeting.  An RFP for safety expert to be sent in the Fall.

TE School District Redistricting:  Based on the distribution of voters in the school district, there is under representation of elected officials in Tredyffrin, District 2.  It was suggested that the Board’s Legislative Committee would review the redistricting issue at their next meeting, in September. Disenfranchised voters are discussing a grassroots effort of their own re redistricting.

Reflecting on last night’s school board meeting, had me wondering why should I or other citizens bother to show up?  As some have often stated on Community Matters, the Board seemingly makes its decisions in advance and then delivers those decisions as a united front. Questions from the public are only marginally answered, if at all.  The Board views comments from residents as criticism and/or annoyances.

Election Day is November 3, 2015.  Five seats on the TE School Board are on the November ballot – Vote for Change!

Public Comment Period on Proposed Redistricting Ends Wednesday at Midnight

Just a couple of days remain for public comment on the proposed redistricting of Pennsylvania’s election district boundaries.  Wednesday, November 30 is the closing date for comments on the proposed redistricting maps.  Granted, these are preliminary maps but I get the sense that they are not likely to change. We have until midnight on Wednesday to email comments to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission at:

http://www.redistricting.state.pa.us/Contact.cfm

The General Assembly in Harrisburg decides the boundaries for the Congressional districts but the top four minority and majority leaders of the General Assembly make up the Reapportionment Commission that decides the boundaries for state house and senate districts with the help of a fifth member they appoint as a tie-breaker.  The process of redistricting in Pennsylvaniais unsatisfactory; five individuals conduct this entire process without any requirement for public input until the final plan is put on public view for 30 days before its passage.

The outcome of Pennsylvania’s 2011 redistricting plan should come as no surprise.  Although the Republican Party is in power for this redistricting process, given the next 10 years and the next census, the power shift could change to the Democrats. Regardless of which party holds the majority at the time of Pennsylvania’s redistricting, without some form of redistricting reform, sadly a similar politically driven outcome is all but guaranteed.

Redistricting reform is needed, including an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission for all electoral levels.  Such a commission would require people who would not have a personal stake in the outcome of the redistricting; unlike the way it is done now.  No elected or political party officials could serve on this independent commission; the new redistricting process should prohibit the inclusion of party registration data and voting history.

The realty is that sweeping nonpartisan redistricting reform is unlikely. Redistricting is a powerful tool for elected officials to protect their own and undermine opponents. Depending on who is in power at the time of redistricting is what determines the election boundaries — thus minimizing the role of the voters in the political process. By gerrymandering the districts, legislators have been able to choose the voters before the voters have had an opportunity to choose them.  Without nonpartisan redistricting, the cycle will continue . . . regardless of which party is in power.

Although it is too late for redistricting reform in 2011, you can still send in your comments to the redistricting commission.  Much has been written about the proposed redistricting changes, but if you are not sure how it will affect you, there is a good online resource. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission website includes interesting interactive maps of the voting districts across the state. You can see the overlay of maps from 1991, current 2001 and proposed 2011 for the House, Senate and Congress.  The maps detail the geographic boundaries and the changes in the districts as the population has shifted.  In addition to the interactive maps, the website contains the 2010 US Census population statistics.

http://www.redistricting.state.pa.us/Maps/index.cfm

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