Pattye Benson

Community Matters

EIT Tax Study Group

TESD Finance Committee Notes, Including EIT Tax Study Group Members

As I was attending the Board of Supervisors meeting last night, I imposed on friend Ray Clarke to attend the Finance Committee meeting. Ray graciously attended and submitted his notes from the meeting for our review. I was pleased to see that the District released the information on the custodial outsourcing bid process. It is important for the integrity and transparency of the process, that the public receive the information – and I thank the school board members for providing it.
As Ray details, the 9 members of the EIT Tax Study Group have been chosen and were announced at the Finance Committee meeting. The members of the group include Michael Abele, Michael Benning, Rita Borzillo, Marie Falcone, William Mullin, Terri Smith, Andrew Snyder, Edward Stevens and Lauren Walsh. I am sure that you join me in thanking these community members for agreeing to serve on the tax study group.
As always, thank you for your notes from the meeting Ray — we are all most appreciative!
TESD Finance Committee Notes – Ray Clarke
Some important topics discussed at the Finance committee meeting:
1. This year’s projection. Revenues and expense roughly equal, without the budgeted $1.3 million from the Fund Balance. Helped of course by the PSERS rate reduction and internal programs more than offsetting revenue reduction. Somehow the district again manages to extract more money from taxpayers than is needed, and that will be especially true next year, with the just approved budget set for all worst contingencies. (Included is a just-received $225,000 bill from Blue Cross for 2009 expenses – a hazard of self-insurance [previously T/E was with the County consortium] that speaks to the need for long run funding, see later).
2. Fund Balance commitments. Regulations require the commitment of the fund balance for specific purposes. Previous designations seem to have been much looser and Finance Chair Mahoney is requiring a thorough analysis of the policy in the new context. The previous policy was to designate 5 years of PSERS increases vs the current year for “PSERS stabilization”. Which arithmetically means that the fund balance can only be accessed for stabilization when the cost starts to diminish (out in 2025 or so). Alternatively, should the balance be used when the increase is in fact ramping up, to mitigate the increase? Alternatively, should we not in fact assume that the state will have to come up with alternative funding anyway, and so return T/E’s money to the local property taxpayer? There is not enough money for the full five-year increase, as it is now anyway. Plus there is a need for a mechanism to smooth out health care costs in self-funded situation. An important issue.
3. Custodial out-sourcing. There were four bidders, all of which invested considerable time in their bids. The lowest bidder was Aramark, with a “base bid” of $1.3 million which was at least $500,000 below the others. The Administration concluded that the total cost would have been about $1.7 million, which they compared to the projected in-house cost of $2.6 million. If I have it right, the TENIG overtime changes and salary increase waiver (all TENIG members, not just custodians) closes $450,000 of the $900,000 gap. Of course, in future years as TENIG rates increase and PSERS rates escalate, the cost comparison for the out-sourcing solution will become more compelling. Hopefully all sides will continue to work on a satisfactory long run solution.
4. EIT study group. Members announced: Michael Abele, Michael Benning, Rita Borzillo, Marie Falcone, William Mullin, Terri Smith, Andrew Snyder, Edward Stevens, Lauren Walsh. As Pattye has reported, the selection process was based entirely on the demographics. Each applicant assigned a random number (1 to 186 total applicants), then the administration started from number 1 and filled up the various categories (6 T/3 E, 4 EIT/ 5 No EIT, 1 retired, 2-3 with school-aged children, 1 business owner, I renter, plus loose “as many age brackets as possible”, and “both genders”. Apparently they had to get down to #150 to fill all the categories. The essays only used to exclude those who had written “grossly inappropriate remarks” (none of those!). The group will meet six consecutive Thursdays starting the Thursday after Labor Day, and hold two “information sessions” for the public. A consultant from the PSBA will provide “information and data”. All meetings will be open to the public and hopefully will be used to solicit ideas for analysis and issues relevant to the Board’s decision on a referendum.
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