Pattye Benson

Community Matters

View from Someone who is Both Taxpayer and Teacher in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District

There have been 2 comments that I have been aware of from Tredyffrin Easttown School District teachers – however, there was no indication whether they were also local taxpayers. However, I just received the following comment from an individual who is both teacher and taxpayer in our district. I thank him (or her) for weighing in from the perspective of both teacher and taxpayer. I thought the comment deserved front page attention. Do you agree/disagree with the teacher/taxpayer assessment of TESD’s current economic situation?

T/E Teacher and T/E Taxpayer:

As both a teacher and taxpayer in T/E, I am very concerned with the future of the quality of our school district and hence, the values of our property. We enjoy one of the finest school districts in the country which makes the values of our homes exponentially more than neighboring districts. We must remember, we enjoy the 2nd lowest school tax rate in the state. NO district is making the agressive cuts that are proposed. Internally, we have heard from the union that 30-35 teaching jobs in addition to all of the teachers hired this year as long term subs will be gone!!! Why??? The reality is that neighbor districts DO PAY THEIR teachers more, offer retirement healthcare and bonus, have much more technology, newer facilities (schools) and personal laptops for each student and teacher!!!

UNDERSTAND PLEASE…I am not complaining as a teacher! This past contract closed the gap between T/E teacher’s pay and other districts. For example, before this contract, Upper Darby teachers were making more than me as a T/E teacher. We do pay into our benefits which is also forgotten. This whole debate and situation raises the question of why is our district in so much trouble and laying off teachers when other districts have more and are not??? The answer is that we as taxpayers have been undertaxed in comparison to the districts around us (yes, I said it and mean it) and therefore, the district relied to heavily on transfer taxes. Now no transfer tax, we are sitting hear screaming about taxes!!!

As a T/E taxpayer, I want to know why we are not tapping our reserves-the piggy bank of nearly $30 million???? The proposed budget is adding another 1million into the piggy bank, why??? Why does no one hear ask about the reserves? What about the 2.9% tax and then tap the reserve?

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  1. A house that has a fair market value (sells for) $500,000 would be assessed as follows: (fair market value x CLR%)

    TE, Great Valley, Unionville — $265,000
    Radnor – $306,500
    Lower Merion, Upper Merion $270,000
    Council Rock, Central Bucks – $48,500

    Knowing these assessed values on our $500,000 purchase house, (make it new construction for the sake of understanding how the assessed value is reached), school taxes on this house based on this fair assessment would be as follows:

    TE – 17.47 mills – $4,629.55
    GV – 18.22 mills $4,828.30
    Radnor – 20.2731 mills $6,213.71
    Lower Merion 21.4015 mills $5,778.41
    West Chester 17.85 mills $4,730.25 plus EIT
    Council Rock 107.96 mills $5,236.06 plus EIT
    Upper Merion 15.24 mills $4,114.80

    Please don’t listen to your union tell you how many jobs will be cut. Go to the meetings and read the minutes. And the $30M fund balance is not $30M anymore — and is largely designated for PSERS and other known issues.

    People keep referencing it — so PLEASE cite the source of your “second lowest taxes” in the state….

  2. Undertaxed? I don’t think so. I think the TE Taxpayer/Teacher post is an example of a conflict of interest. When people are making less money yet being taxed more, then it is time to reassess and make changes.

  3. We keep hearing about “making less money” and then talk about school taxes. Perhaps this is the moment we need to truly open up the discussion about taxing INCOME instead of just property for schools. No one wants to pay more taxes, but figuring out which tax is the fairest really is part of the solution. When we contemplated it before all the laws about how to enact it came into play (in the late 90s), it was because data shows that 75% or so of wage earners had kids in schools, but only 25% of property owners did. As a board member, i was quite disappointed that the response was NO MORE TAXES rather than a revenue neutral discussion about how to collect tax revenue. We are certainly not undertaxed — but those who purchase homes here at ever higher values do have expectations of a school district.
    I have said it before and will say it again: when it comes to teacher compensation, you can keep a good job, or you can lose a great one. With collective bargaining (ask steel and auto workers), you can make more, get better benefits — and you are like every other worker — you can be outsourced (online learning) or laid off with productivity gains (higher class sizes, few staff positions).

  4. Re the “second lowest taxes in the state”:

    Tredyffrin has the second lowest school taxes in the state based on the fact that we are the second lowest in the percentage of property wealth applied to education.

    How is that possible?

    Because Tredyffrin has one of the highest aggregate property values – $3.581 BILLION – of any municipality in PA. (Less than $200 million of that is tax exempt. )

    Upper Merion’s school taxes are even lower than Tredyffrin’s because that township’s tax base includes the KOP Mall. The twp also collects both a Business Privilege Tax and a Merantile Tax, so property owners do not carry the same burden as Tredyffrin taxpayers do.

    In Tredyffrin we have managed pretty well with modest property taxes, and closed increases in spending year-to-year with transfer tax revenue.

    But this formula isn’t working anymore. Who knows if it will ever be adequate once the economy recovers. Something’s gotta give – both for both the schools and the township.

  5. “We enjoy one of the finest school districts in the country which makes the values of our homes exponentially more than neighboring districts.”

    Exponentially more valuable than Radnor, Unionville, Great Valley, Lower Merion, and Central Bucks? What’s the source of this data?

    “we have heard from the union that 30-35 teaching jobs in addition to all of the teachers hired this year as long term subs will be gone!!”

    Since the law protects teachers from furlough except for some narrow exceptions I think this teachers might want to get an opinion form someone else other than a union leader.

    “This whole debate and situation raises the question of why is our district in so much trouble and laying off teachers when other districts have more and are not??”

    Try accessing the news reports from West Chester and Great Valley. How about this headline – WCASD officials see $6.5 million budget gap. Or this one – Great Valley board discusses projected shortfall. What all 3 districts have in common are contracts with 4% to 6% yearly increases in teacher salaries.

    “before this contract, Upper Darby teachers were making more than me as a T/E teacher.”

    There is a reason for this. Did any teachers leave TE to chase a higher salary at Upper Darby?

    “the answer is that we as taxpayers have been undertaxed in comparison to the districts around us”

    Could it be that we as taxpayers have been paying our teachers too much?

  6. To: “I’m going Anon too”

    What do you mean by don’t listen to my union about job cuts? And go to the meetings and read minutes?

    Well- FLES teachers are gone and now 10 teachers from the middle schools. The proposed changes at the high school of going to 6 teaching periods would mean about 25 more teachers gone! So, what number of jobs gone should I listen to? Your number? So, how many teachers are going to lose their job? Please advise!

    1. Not a single job has been cut — since these are all program-based investigations. Rabblerousing is what this is called. Verb: to stir up the emotions or prejudices of the public; agitate.
      But maybe these proposed cuts are kind of like strike theats when the subject of co-pays comes up…. NO one ever accepts the phrase “enough.” Keep a good job, LOSE a great one.
      And by the way — I am not in favor of dismantling the district — I’ve posted lots of information about our tax effort. But I have at least a dozen friends in the TESD who have been out of work for more than 6 months — all primary wage earners who weren’t given the opporrunity to save their jobs — just let go. Perhaps it’s time for the TEEA membership to consider asking to open the contract and negotiate different terms to make more programs more affordable. It’s called Give and Take. Right now, it appears the district is in the position of TAKE. .

  7. “Since the law protects teachers from furlough except for some narrow exceptions I think this teachers might want to get an opinion form someone else other than a union leader.”

    Teachers may be furloughed when there are program changes-hence, changing the middle school program and FLES already and the proposal of changing the high school’s program! This is how district’s lay off teachers-PROGRAM CHANGES

  8. Will someone PLEASE produce the reference to the ‘2nd lowest taxes in the state’ — using any information / tax base you want. I’m not disputing it — just would like the source so I can study it.
    And furlough is seniority-based by certification….maybe some teachers who can earn more in other districts will choose to work there…

  9. Now we are getting to the crux of the matter.

    The economy of the 2000’s was one giant Ponzi scheme. The economy is re-setting activity levels and real incomes back at least five years. There is only so much money to go around.

    Do union members want to stick with their contracts (eg: 28% one year benefits cost increase, 27% 3 year salary increase for the middle of the matrix) or do they want to preserve jobs and educational programs?

  10. As a parent in TESD, I have faith that the administration will make the right choices about maintaining the quality of our educational program while cutting costs where it makes sense. I’ve read the meeting minutes – everything they are proposing makes a lot of sense. The teachers union needs to stop trying to scare people and I’m glad some of the readers here realize that. Our kids and our property values will be fine. If things can be done more efficiently for less money then that is what needs to happen. Corporations are cutting costs continually – I, too, know many families in TESD who have lost primary wage earners. It is not easy, but it is time for everyone to work together here and not expect the taxpayers to be the only ones taking a financial hit.

  11. At this point, things have gotten so bad, I’d be willing to take the risk that the teachers will strike just to get them to open up the contracts.

    Rabble rousing is my new favorite term

  12. This is to those that think teaching jobs are not in jeopardy or being cut. This is from the press release of the changes to the 7th and 8th program. The full release can be found on T/E’s front page of the website.

    “Modifications to the 7th and 8th grade schedule will result in the reallocation of District staff. For
    the 2010-2011 school year, reductions of 6 core teachers and 3.9 special areas teachers are

    ***Reallocation means furlough. Reallocation is now my favorite term!

  13. Again — these are program review changes. The cuts won’t be made unless the decision is formally made to do it. But cost savings have to be identified — and if these programs are the place to find savings, these programs will be the ones to go. Stoga had a 7-period day forever until “Access/Options/Choice — which was great but only made a great program more accessible. Going back to it is hardly scary. Also again — perhaps the teachers responding here need ot talk to their union leaders about their interest in preserving jobs — not just the union leader jobs. The union could take different co-pays and deductibles — could accept individual (not family) coverage for all — lots of options. I’ve sat through many negotiations — I can assure you that union leadership first and foremost takes care of leadership — and unless those folks are special subject teachers with low seniority, I don’t think they will worry about any one else. I’d LOVE to be wrong — but the District has already said a deals a deal — so they won’t open the contract. TEEA could by offering some cost savings that would not cost jobs.

  14. Please explain how FLES and the middle school change is not official??? The board voted last month on FLES and on January 12th for middle school changes. So, what do you mean by the decision needs to be made official? It is offficial! FLES teachers loss their positions and now 10 middle school teachers do too.

  15. The board did NOT vote on anything except FLES — which they gave the administration permission to start the process to drop the program. The decision was clear and obvious and the holders of those jobs will be furloughed depending on their certifications and seniority (elementary/Spanish?) The middle school changes were discussed at the Education meeting — not a board meeting –and will probably get board review on the 25th at the general meeting. If the answers aren’t clear, it will be part of the information shared at the Feb 8th finance meeting. If the changes are slam-dunk, they will be voted on at the next board meeting on 25th — so maybe that’s where you will hear the details and see the handwriting as it goes up on the wall. Instead of just attending meetings and sitting in the back, maybe TEEA will make comments and have some solutions to offer publicly. Teachers are not a victim here — programs are undergoing streamlining — and unlike most people in a “laid off” position, teachers can try to affect their utility by making their jobs not just efficient but affordable. Give it a try.

  16. Now I’ve got interested enough in that salary matrix to analyze the whole thing.

    Note that I don’t have the distribution of teachers on the matrix, and I’ve used straight averages of the changes for each point. I leave readers to guess what the impact of the actual mix will be …..

    Straight average of all salary increases:
    2008/9 to 2009/10: + 3.1%
    2009/10 to 2010/11: +4.0%
    2010/11 to 2011/12: +6.1%
    So, the rate of increase will MORE THAN DOUBLE NEXT YEAR!

    Range of 3 year compounded salary increases:
    High: Level 9/M+15: +8.9% per year
    Low: Level 12/B: +0.4% per year
    Straight average: +4.3% per year
    Note that Level 9/M+15 is pretty much in the middle of the matrix. Only the two left columns (B and M) have compound annual increases of less than 5% per year.

    Note too, of course, that individuals move across and down the matrix, exacerbating the above numbers.

    At the very least, this data suggests a great need for improvements in the negotiating process if union compensation is to be related in any way to taxpayer ability to pay. At the other extreme, does the above data suggest that taxpayers just can not accept the the School Board’s outright refusal to consider taking action regarding the current contract?

    1. The TE taxpayers should place blame where it is due. On 6/1/08 the school directors agreed to a contract with average salary increases of 5.1% this year; 5.1% in 2010-11 and 5.2% in 2011-12. These are numbers calculated by the PSEA using actual teacher placement in the salary matrix . What were they thinking???

    2. Thanks, Harold for the information. I’d like to see the numbers used by the PSEA to confirm their analysis. (I just noticed my capitalized comment could be better phrased – how about ” the rate of increase next year WILL BE DOUBLE LAST YEAR’S”.

      Anyway, your conclusion is right on. When asked that question a while ago, the Finance Committee chair replied that they knew exactly how the compensation package was to be funded. No specifics were provided – possibly because the answer was “BY TAX INCREASES”.

      1. I only have a summary from the PSEA; I don’t have the underlying numbers they used. Typically, at the beginning of bargaining the district will supply a list of all union members and their current placement on the matrix. This list is then used by both sides to calculate the percentage increase each year of the contract as these members step downward through the matrix. The actual percentage increase is different from that calculated due to retirements, new hires and lateral movement (more educational credits), but it’s the best estimate available at the time the contract is negotiated.

  17. Lest we not forget the article in the Main Line Suburban 3/4/09 about the superintendent’s salary and benefits. We certainly are paying a lot for his cost-cutting ideas…

    “Tredyffrin/Easttown School District

    On April 19, 1999, a majority of the members of the Tredyffrin/Easttown Board of School Directors voted to appoint Dr. Daniel E. Waters as superintendent of schools of the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District.

    On March 28, 2005, a majority of the members of the board voted to reappoint him for a term ending Dec. 28, 2010.

    Waters in 2005 got a base salary of $185,000. The school district provided documents showing that the school board approved amendments to his contract every year to 2008 that incrementally increased his salary.

    In January 2008 his base salary was up to $224,515.

    In addition to the salary amount set forth above for each contract year, the district expends an amount of money equal to 15 percent of his salary from which his benefits are purchased. The amount expended for the plans chosen by Waters is deducted from the aforementioned 15 percent of his base salary, according to the contract.

    Also, every year $35,000 is placed in a fund to be used to defray the cost of post-secondary education for Waters’ family members.

    Lastly the school district provides “a late-model, four-wheel-drive utility vehicle” for the “exclusive business and family use” of Waters. The district will provide for or reimburse him for all expenses “relating to the operation of this automobile including gasoline, lubricants, repairs, maintenance and liability and property-damage insurance,” the employment agreement states.”

    About the Job
    Superintendent of Schools Mifflinburg Area SD(Union Co. Position Availability is March, 2010. Enrollment approx. 2,300; grades K-12. Necessary characteristics: must have the background skills and abilities essential for excellence in educational leadership. Possess a high degree of integrity, honesty, respect, and trustworthiness in all district dealings. Demonstrate effective communication skills and be a team leader with the ability to build productive relationships with all staff members. Serve as the chief public relations representative for the district and the school board. Demonstrate the ability to effectively develop and execute policy collaboratively with members of the school board. Possess keen intellect and extensive knowledge of all aspects of the district from instructional operational leadership. Demonstrate student-centered leadership, a passion for children and their learning, and expectations for high achievement. Send completed application, letter of interest, detailed resume, PA letter of eligibility and certificate, academic transcripts, five recommendation letters and Acts 34, 114 and 151 clearances …. Application deadline is January 29, 2010.

    Great article ;
    No — it’s not about PA but it is about the job….and Dr. Waters has served the district as a high school principal, a Director of Educational program, and as Superintendent. He serves as someone with extensive experience AND knowledge of our district. Here’s what some neighbors are dealing with:

    New GV Superintendent 2009- left another job before completing contract in Shikellamy to take GV job.
    New LM Superintendent 2008- came to district from DELCO IU — no district experience in LM – strong candidate who replaced Savedoff, a one-contract superintendent
    New Radnor Superinentendent 2008 – came to district from Phila Schools — no prior experience in Radnor; replaced interim Superintendent who replaced
    Cooper who left mid-contract after replacing an interim (Slick) and a 17-year (DeFlaminis).

    You do get what you pay for. You can question what Dr. Waters is paid, but it is the board that makes that determination — so your issue is with them. I was part of the Superintendent search for Dr. Waters predecessor — Dr. Foot — and the pool is simply NOT full. The article link is quite interesting in examining the process.

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