I attended last night’ Board of Supervisors meeting and my friend, Ray Clarke attended the T/E School District’s Finance Meeting. Following my update on the supervisors meeting, please read Ray’s comments.
The agenda for last night’s supervisors meeting went quickly and there was no ‘new matters’ from board members. I was prepared for ‘new matters’ from citizens with two topics. Based on the supervisors meeting of October 3, I asked Supervisor Olson (Bob Lamina and EJ Richter were absent) if St. Davids Golf Club had been contacted. Olson deferred to Mimi Gleason who said yes, the club was contacted and said it was a positive conversation. I asked about the timeline for response from the club re the sidewalks and her response was that there was no time limit. In other words, I said the issue remains ‘open ended’ to which she responded yes. Bottom line, it may have taken us 21 months to get to this point in time with St. Davids Golf Club, but apparently nothing is going to move forward anytime soon, in the way of enforcement, etc.. Was the only way to receive an update (status) on the sidewalks at St. Davids was to ask the same question at every Board of Supervisors meeting? I guess that is correct.
Second citizen matter from me last night was the burned out light bulb situation in the township. Although I have focused on Chesterbrook and Duportail on Community Matters, I have noticed other area lights out (Old Eagle School Rd. as an example). My questions produced some interesting facts:
- The township (residents) pays PECO per light post, regardless if there are electrical issues or if the lights are working or not.
- The township has a yearly maintenance contract with Lenni Electrical to change light bulbs. Some have suggested that perhaps the township was trying to save money and maybe wasn’t calling the company for maintenance as a way to avoid service call expenses. Well, I discovered that the township (residents) pays a flat fee regardless of how many (or how few) times they come out to change the light bulbs!
- The pink ribbons are placed by township staff to indicate to Lenni Electrical where light bulbs need replacement. I noticed driving to the township building that there are pink ribbons on street lights that have working light bulbs and questioned why weren’t the ribbons removed when the light bulbs were changed? Obvious, I would think. According to Steve Burgo, township engineer, they know that this is a problem and are working with the contractor to get them to remove the pink ribbons.
Mimi cited ongoing electrical problems on Chesterbrook Boulevard as the cause for the non-working light bulbs. I suggested that the electrical problem with some of the Chesterbrook lights has existed for 27+ years. The response from Mimi Gleason, was that they were working with PECO and that State Rep Warren Kampf had been called for assistance.
After leaving the township building, I decided to do a more scientific study of counting the burned-out light bulbs on Chesterbrook and Duportail Rds. I drove down one side of Chesterbrook Blvd. to Valley Forge Road, turned around and drove back, counting as many of the burned-out light bulbs as I could find. This 2-mile (or less) stretch of roads doesn’t have 19 burned-out light bulbs, there are 37 non-working street lights.
Am I the only one who has a problem with this? We are all taxpayers and our money is paying PECO for these lights and our money is paying Lenni Electrical change the light bulbs. Where’s the accountability on this issue? I remain hopeful that at least one of our supervisors will take up the cause of township light bulbs.
Moving on to last night’s TE School District Finance Committee meeting. While I was busy sorting through the burned-out light bulb situation, Ray Clarke was at the Finance Committee meeting. He offers the following comments with his own editorial remarks. As always, I am appreciative that Ray not only attends the school board meetings, but takes the time to detail his thoughts for Community Matters. Thanks Ray!
The TESD Finance Committee meeting turned up a few points of interest on Monday night.
- The district’s 2010/11 financials got a nice boost from the decision to self-insure healthcare benefits coupled with better than projected claims experience. That turned out to be a $1.3 million favorable variance, which in turn generated a $0.9 million surplus for the year. So our Fund Balance, combined with an additional $0.5 million which under previous accounting rules was separate (I think), is (6/30/2011) now up to a munificent $31 million. (Note, I came in slightly late to this discussion, and there was no handout on this, so my numbers may not be precise)
- Also on the plus side, the Committee discussed what to do with the restoration of Corbett’s proposed cut to the state reimbursement of 50% of social security taxes, worth $1.3 million this year, which came in after TE’s 2011/12 budget was passed. The administration proposed ~$200K for postponed text-book buys and ~$300K mostly for technology spending. This generated a lot of debate, essentially asking the question: what is going to be the impact of, say, $60,000 for piloting applications for iPads, versus the current technology environment. To my mind this is the tip of a much bigger iceberg: how will we use technology spending to improve the analytic or creative skills of our students? If we need a pilot to answer that question, fine, but should we spend $60,000 for a pilot? It was agreed that this would be subject for future Board discussion.
- Important upcoming dates: November 3rd for the Tax Study Group’s presentation of the pros and cons of and EIT, and November 14thfor a special School Board meeting to consider notification of the intent to request a referendum on the April 24th ballot. Some important things (from my perspective) to bear in mind here:The official financial projection model is being modified to remove the assumption of a Act 1 index 1.7% property tax increase for 2012/13, so the base case is not both a property and an income tax. The base case gap for 2012/13 is currently $5.5 million. (It’s not clear that the model has been updated yet for the actual healthcare cost and fund balance outcomes.)
- The TSG’s approach is to present the features of an EIT independent of the alternatives; the Board (and potentially voters) will have to decide the merits of those pros and cons relative to its own assessment of the pros and cons of alternatives like cutting educational programs, raising property taxes or – for a few years – using some of that Fund Balance.
- Unknown actions of the townships, which would be entitled to claim up to 50% of the revenues from a voter-approved residential EIT, loom large. How highly would the BOS weigh education versus the township’s own needs?
- Of course, totally moot unless the School Board votes to ask the question, and the voters approve it, since there is no sign that the townships are mulling and EIT of their own.
- Of course, the Republican candidates for the School Board have already decided the EIT question for themselves without waiting for the TSG analysis. Presumably they are part of the minority in TE that a) does not pay the tax already, and b) has an income greater than 40% of the assessed value of their house, so would rather see any gap (after using some of that fund balance) made up from cuts in the education program or property tax increases.
On the TEEA contract: the district is required by the state to begin negotiations for the next contract in January. The way this all gets going is for the union to send a letter to the district at that time.
How creative can the parties be? Is there a way to trade-off much lower healthcare premiums/benefits (that encourage personal accountability) for maybe allowing step increases, keeping the total compensation cost within at the very least the increase modeled in the district’s current projection?