Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin Easttown School District – 7.2% Tax Increase Possible

In an update from the Tredyffrin Easttown School District, it is stated that there is a deficit of $1.5 million in the current school year (2009-2010) budget. This deficiency plus the current economic situation is affecting the 2010-11 budget decisions. It is anticipated that the 2010-11 school year’s expenses will exceed revenues by approximately $8 million! Act 1 of the 2006 Pennsylvania Tax Relief Act allows for a 2.9% increase. The 2.9% tax increase would provide additional $2 million revenue. This tax increase would not require voter referendum to pass. The School Board has not raised taxes above the annual index since Act 1’s enactment in 2006. However, even with the 2.9% tax increase, a $6 million deficit remains in the budget.

The School Board is allowed to increase taxes above the annual index based on specific allowable exceptions. The District’s analysis confirmed the eligibility for exceptions in (1) state mandated retirement rate increase, (2) special education and (3) maintenance of selected revenues. If these options are applied for and approved by the State, the School Board would have an option of raising taxes up to an additional 4.3% – combined with the allowable Act 1 increase of 2.9%, taxpayers could be looking at an increase of 7.2%! We understand that the current economic situation presents a real struggle for the School Board and the administration, but how to balance the budget? How do you want the School Board to balance the budget? Do they greatly increase taxes, reduce services, eliminate programs (such as FLES), increase existing fees, charge for extra-curriculum programs?

Tonight’s discussion at the School Board meeting should be very interesting — 7:30 PM at Conestoga HS. Come out and let your voice be heard! Here is a link to the agenda, October meeting minutes, correspondence and financials.

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  1. Well, Pattye, we attended from 7:30 to 8:55, but had to leave for some student chauffeuring duties. The 85 minutes were allotted to much ceremony in honor of the departing board members and a short but good exposition of the thinking behind the elimination of FLES. The program does not seem to be working as currently implemented, and I would support the alternative beefing up the intensity of the language curriculum in later grades (proposed, but not elaborated).
    I returned home expecting to see the remainder of the meeting on TV, but no – it was a re-run of last month’s meeting. Another example of TESD’s lip service to communication. If the township meetings can be live, why not the School Board’s?
    The reasons for the FLES change do not seem to be budgetary. But expenditures do need to be addressed of course. Yearly increases built into current union contracts assume taxpayer resources are limitless. This year another 7.2% or more on the backs of property owners? A 50+% increase this decade!
    It’s time for a coordinated effort by our Townships and School District to reclaim the $8 million in EIT paid by residents to other jurisdictions. Should be easy for our one party government.
    Am I missing something?

    1. Thanks Ray. Like you, I assumed that the School Board was telecast live. Why can’t the School Board use Conestoga’s state-of-the-art studio and broadcast live?

      Having discovered that 65% of the current school district expenditures is from salaries & budgets, I do not understand why all revenue sources should not be openly discussed? Why can’t we take EIT out of the closet and have full public discussion? Many individuals simply do not understand Earned Income Tax – don’t know ‘who’ pays it currently to other townships – and don’t understand ‘who’ would be exempt. What is wrong with discussing all options?? I don’t get it.

      1. EIT has already been discussed extensively and publicly. There was the Act 1 study group for TESD in 2005, which released plenty of public data and analysis. There was the Act 1 referendum in which the TESD voters overwhelmingly rejected an income tax. The BAWG also examined the EIT and their report has data on it.

  2. How can we be surprised? The teachers’ union took the school district to the cleaners last year: In the midst of a recession they managed to secure raises of 17-34% over four years!

    I wish the school board had stood up to them, but given the degree to which PA laws favor the union I suppose it takes a lot more taxpayer outrage to sustain a fight against the union.

    Since teacher compensation is the primary cost of running our schools, and since TESD teachers enjoy such exorbitant pay (which is why there are literally thousands of applicants for the few open positions each year), any discussion of the school budget should start with teacher pay.

    And in a recession, when we’re facing a budget deficit to sustain raises to already overpaid teachers, the discussion should focus on how we can get the teachers to give back some of the money they’ve robbed from the taxpayers.

  3. I added some more thoughts on the TTPN site

    I think that you are right on the mark with your call for increased transparency and communication – the School Board has a big problem and needs to realize that both individually and collectively residents can help.

    A fun fact on the EIT: from the BAWG’s own survey data (which they chose to ignore), to balance the budget, residents favor imposing an EIT over increasing property taxes by nearly 2:1. (% Agree/strongly agree, page 61)

  4. I could agree that EIT was discussed publically in 2005 re the School Board. But that discussion was 4 years ago and we are in a far different situation economically in 2009. I disagree that EIT was given a fair airing by BAWG – anything but! It seems to me it was simply dismissed by Tom Colman, perhaps as a ‘been there, done that’ from 2005. But again, 4 years ago was a different time & place. It should be the responsibility of the township to review all revenue sources, including EIT in an open, public forum. Easttown brought in a 3rd party and offered a town hall meeting enviroment for the public and that is what should have happened in Tredyffrin. The process should not be controlled by events of 2004.

    1. To be clear about the timing of the last EIT evaluation, The Tax Study was three years ago, in late 2006. According to a report on the public hearing at VFMS on 11/17/06, from the Tredyffrin Township Democrats website:

      “At the public hearing last night, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association presented “The Act 1 of 2006: Homeowners Property Tax Relief Act” as being an opportunity to shift part of the school tax burden from the current property tax to an income-based tax.”

      “About 200 people attended the session tonight, and every citizen who spoke before the Tax Study Commission, asked them to keep the current property tax system and not to recommend switching to a Personal Income Tax or an Earned Income Tax.”

      From the minutes of the TESD Board meeting on 5/21/07, reporting on the 5/15/07 vote:

      “Eighty-eight percent of Tredyffrin and Easttown voters voted “No” on the Act 1 income tax referendum question.”

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