The following article by Blair Meadowcroft appears in today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper. The article details the mixed reaction of the passing of the preliminary 2010-11 school budget at Monday night’s TESD School Board Meeting. One item that Blair mentioned that caught my eye concerned the replacement of long time 3rd grade teacher Walter Thompson at New Eagle Elementary with a long-term substitute. There seems to be a vagueness concerning this matter and that information was coming from the children to the parents rather than the administration. Anyone have further information on that topic?
As to how the cuts are to be orchestrated to make up the school budget deficit, is my understanding that we will be given further information at the Finance Committe on February 8? I wonder if the adminstration and School Board will equally distribute the cost-cutting measures throughout the district? Or, will certain grades or programs be more vulnerable? Someone mentioned the reduction of AP offerings at the high school as a possible source, although at this point, guess most of us are in a ‘wait and see’ mode. I wonder how much students or parents can impact the decisions?
Reaction Mixed on T/E Plan
By Blair Meadowcroft
Although passed unanimously, the preliminary budget that was approved at the Monday-night Tredyffrin/Easttown Board of School Directors meeting did not gain the same unanimous approval from residents. The proposed preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 school year is $101.9 million from revenue and $111.15 million in expenses, leaving a $9.25-million deficit. On the table at the School Board meeting was the decision of whether or not to raise taxes in order to combat the deficit. If the board approved raising taxes up to the 2.9-percent Act 1 index, the deficit would decrease to $6.85 million. If the board approved to apply for exceptions to the Act 1 index, it would be allowed to tax 3.73 percent on top of the index, which could bring the deficit down to $3.75 million.
While not a perfect fix towards creating a balanced budget, the board was asked to vote on the proposed preliminary budget with the authorization to apply for the Act 1 referendum exceptions. After comments from various board members, it appeared some favored and some opposed approving the Act 1 exceptions.
“I will be voting no against the proposed preliminary budget because we need to protect the program and we don’t want to negatively impact the school,” said Kevin Mahoney, chair of the Finance Committee. “Tredyffrin has a large population of elderly people as well as five percent living below the poverty line and these people may not be able to afford a large tax increase. We should find necessary funding from the fund balance. It has been a rainy-day fund and we should use it to help us bridge this hard time. I suggest a minimal tax increase within Act 1 and I suggest we make spending cuts and use the fund balance where necessary.”
In disagreement, board member Peter Motel stated he intended to vote yes for the budget as presented until the possible spending cuts are determined. “We need to keep the option of going above Act 1 open, and if we do decide to go above the cap, we need to ask for public approval,” said Motel.
After discussion, the board voted on the motion to approve the proposed preliminary budget, with the authorization to seek out the Act 1 referendum exceptions, and the motion did not pass. The board then voted on passing the preliminary budget with an adopted resolution limiting the tax increase to the Act 1 index of 2.9 percent or less. This motion was approved and the preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 school year was passed unanimously.
At the end of the budget discussions, many residents voiced their opinions both for and against the outcome. The most common point made was confusion as to why the budget was not passed with the Act 1 exceptions. “I’m disappointed the Act 1 exception wasn’t considered,” said one resident. “The School Board did not have to take the additional tax increase but applying for the exception could have been a starter and should have been considered. I want our children to have a great program and I’m willing to pay up to the 2.9 percent or more. Whatever it takes to continue to present the best program with the best teachers.”
In agreement another resident stated that by not passing the Act 1 exceptions, the board has closed doors. “I don’t understand the logic behind limiting your options; you would not have been obligated to raise the taxes by passing the budget and yet by not passing it you now have cut your options,” he said.
It may have been surprising to board members but many residents not only voiced their willingness to pay higher taxes but also explained their concern that by not approving the possibility of higher taxes, the board has limited the opportunities and may now have to cut in areas, thus hindering the program that residents find so above par.
However, the hard times brought on by the poor economy did have some residents concerned that higher taxes would be one more bill they would have to struggle to pay. “I urge you not to take the entire 2.9 percent as a lot of us are already underwater, unemployed or retired and elderly,” said one resident.
This was the sixth meeting during which the budget was a line item, and the board will continue to discuss and rework the budget through June. The final budget must be approved at the June 14 board meeting. Until then the board intends to work on ways of lowering expenses and ways to use the fund balance in an effort to fix the deficit. The hope is to end the year with a balanced budget. For more information and to view the budget online visit www.tesd.k12.pa.us/index.html
In other news, a topic on the minds of many of the residents at the Jan. 25 school-board meeting was the replacement of a third-grade teacher at New Eagle Elementary School. According to many parents, Walter Thompson, a longtime teacher at New Eagle, is being replaced by a long-term substitute after an extensive review period for reasons they are unaware. The parents went on to say that their children were the only ones communicating to them what was happening in Thompson’s class and that they were the ones informing them of his being extensively monitored and audited.
Many parents expressed concern that various teachers instructed their children since October and that their third-grade education may have been hindered from the experience. Additionally many parents explained that their children were upset, even anxious over the situation.
The major complaint made by parents at the meeting was that the district did not tell them what was going on in their children’s class. They expressed that they were not trying to find out why Thompson was being audited or what he may have done, but wanted an explanation as to why the situation was handled the way it was.
After many comments and concerns were made by parents, the board re-emphasized that it were unable to give information about the Thompson.