Last night was the Finance Committee meeting and continued the discussion from the Budget Workshop held last month. The administration and the school board members focused on the budget strategies available to fill the remaining $3.3 million shortfall.
If you recall, originally the remaining school district 2011-12 budget deficit was $2 million. However, because of Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget and cuts to public education, an additional $1.3 million in state funding was lost to the district and therefore was added back into the TESD budget shortfall.
How to fund the $3.3 million deficit was the focus of the Finance Committee meeting. Members of the Finance Committee support and encourage a pay waiver freeze for next year. Hoping for an understanding of shared sacrifice, the school board recently mailed letters to TEEA and TENIG unions seeking their support.
Outsourcing of custodial services remains an open issue for further discussion; it appears that the updated cost-savings on out-sourcing of those services is approximately $800K annually. There was discussion of pay-to-play or ‘activities fee’ to be charged to students playing sports. This would be a yearly fee for student athletics, regardless if they played 1 or more sports. If a $50 fee per student athlete is charged, the revenue generated is approximately $80K. In reviewing other area school districts, five districts in Chester County have some type of sports activities fee in place. How much is the school district budget for sports? $1.5 million annually; which breaks down to approximately $509 per student who plays sports (including club sports).
Here is an open question . . . does sports activities fee impact participation. The discussion of an activities fee for sports brought up an interesting discussion. Is it fair to only charge for sports, what about other extra-curricular activities, clubs, band, etc.? Some members of the Finance Committee suggested that the activities fee should be associated with those extra-curricular activities that required transportation.
Another way to generate revenue for the school district is advertising and members of the Finance Committee are investigating the concept of paid advertising on Teamer Field, as well as other locations. Two adverting companies that handle this type of school district advertising will make a presentation at the next school board meeting. Generated revenue from this type of advertising was estimated as $30K-95K. Advertising on the sports team shirts was also discussed, as well as school bus advertising. If the district decides to move forward with the adverting concept, there will need to be a policy change.
FLITE is working to raise $85K to fund the after-school homework club. The homework program is included in the 2011-12 budget but is on the list as a possible budget expense reduction. Another expense reduction item under consideration is transportation for some extra-curricular activities ($90K) and summer school ($40K).
Several parents spoke in support of maintaining the quality of education and programming in the district. Many suggested raising property taxes or instituting an EIT to cover the school district budget deficit. If instituted, an 1% EIT would generate approximately $17 million annually. With the township and school district equally sharing those funds, $8.5 million would go to each.
The argument by some in support of an EIT or property tax increase was that your property values are directly tied to the quality of the school district. Therefore, if you want to sustain your property values, you must support the quality of the school district.
What was clear from the Finance Committee meeting is that the administration and school board are running out of options! They encouraged those in the audience and watching from home to contact your state representatives and Harrisburg.