Community Matters readers — I haven’t disappeared; it’s been a busy last month. First there was the Trust’s 12th Annual Historic House Tour on Sept. 24 which I am delighted to report as extremely successful. To the house tour guests and to the sponsors who support historic preservation and make the annual tour possible, we say thank you. And a special thank you to the historic homeowners for opening their homes to the public – the historic homes really are the stars on house tour day!
Following the house tour, my husband and I went to our 100-yr. old house on Port Royal Island, SC for a few days. On the intercostal waterways, the Sea Islands are located between Charlestown, SC and Savannah, GA, close to Beaufort, SC and Hilton Head. We stayed on the island until Hurricane Matthew forced our evacuation and then spent the next 4 days wondering if our house survived. Although the area endured major destruction and many folks suffered great loss, I am happy to report that our house remained standing. We did suffer some roof damage and are now maneuvering through the insurance process.
After returning from SC, my focus shifted to ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz … A Party in the Yard’ – a celebration of the Fritz family and the 153 years of the William H. Fritz Lumber Company in Berwyn on Saturday, Oct. 22, 7-11 PM. The property’s new owner Eadeh Enterprises is the presenting sponsor for the event — Company president Stacey Ballard has enthusiastically supported the event and the celebration of the Fritz family. On behalf of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, we are excited to honor the contributions of the Fritz family to the community. Guests will enjoy great food, live music and live & silent auctions plus the opportunity to walk the property for one last time. It really will be an evening to remember, tickets are available at www.tredyffrinhistory.org .
Here’s another historic preservation update — John Zaharchuk, owner of Summit Realty Advisors invited me to a meeting a few weeks ago with himself and Heckendorn Shiles Architects. Summit Realty is the developer for the CVS project at the Covered Wagon Inn site in Strafford. With restoration plans and drawings now in place, it was a privilege to see the PowerPoint presentation for the Covered Wagon Inn along with samples of proposed materials. In a word – WOW. I was truly impressed at their enthusiasm and with the level of preservation detail planned for the 18th century inn. Yes, we will have a CVS pharmacy on the property but the Main Line landmark is saved (and restored!) in the process! Thank you John Zaharchuk and Heckendorn Shiles!
Supervisor and school district meetings continue and I appreciate the diligence of my friend Ray Clarke to attend, especially given my absence of late.
Ray reports that the TE School District finance meeting this week was particularly lively and offered the following three topics of note for me to share. I hope that you will take the time to review Ray’s remarks and offer your own comments. As always, thank you Ray —-
- Substitute teacher daily rates. TE is at the low end of the rates paid by our regional peers, and the fill rates for vacancies are down in the 80% decile from last year’s 90%. This is a nationwide issue and reflective of lower teacher graduation numbers. The Committee agreed to the Administration request to match the rate paid by Lower Merion (not the best comparison?), which would make our starting rate of $115/day higher than 10 of the 13 peers benchmarked.
- Bond advance refunding. Lots of technical issues here, but a notable bottom line: the Committee is recommending that the Board approve next Monday the parameters of a bond issuance, even though our long-time bond counsel, Saul Ewing, disagrees with the investment banker (not the district’s Fiduciary) about the IRS rules, the structuring of the issue and, as a consequence, the savings. Between now and Monday the District is going to shop for a counsel to give a more favorable opinion to approve 10 year debt service savings of at least $500,000 and hopefully over $1 million.
- Budgeting. There was initial discussion of a proposal to replace the (now accepted, I guess) surplus budgeting of prior years with a specific “above-the-line” (ie: in the tax base) appropriation for capital expenditure. At current capital spending levels of $6-7 million a year and 75% funding by borrowing this would phase in an expense item of over $1.5 million a year. A number of assumptions in this:
a) that budgeting will henceforth be accurate
b) that current taxpayers should pay an assigned percentage (of whatever size) of capital expenditures benefiting future students
c) that current residents should pay anything while the General Fund Balance contains $32 million of current taxpayer money, including $5 million already committed for capital projects and over $9 million for PSERS (for which the district can and does tax every year).
There are really important issues in all of this, and I hope that residents can find some time assess the pros and cons and let the Board know their opinion.