Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD Budget 2010-11

TESD Teachers Organizing Email Campaign

In case you missed Ray Clarke’s comment on an earlier post, he is reporting that an email campaign is being organized by Tredyffrin Easttown teachers against any program reductions and in support of the Tredyffrin Easttown School District School Board’s Monday, January 25th vote on asking for exceptions.

The deadline to receive an Act 1 exception is coming quickly. An exception application must be filed by February if the TESD tax increase is to be higher than the 2.9% allowed by Act 1. I think that the exception can allow an increase as high as 6.9%.

Any school teachers want to weigh in? Residents? School Board members?

A Community Matters Reader with Specific TESD Budget Questions . . . Can We Help with Answers?

One of our Community Matters readers, ‘Full of Questions’ sent in a comment which contained specific questions that we may be able to answer for him/her. As I often do, if there is a comment that I think needs frontpage attention, I post it here so that everyone sees it. Read through the questions and respond if you think you can help — please label your responses to match the numbered questions.

Full of Questions writes . . .

I have enjoyed reading the posts on this site. Unfortunately I still have so many questions that are unanswered and I have no idea where to get the answers. Maybe someone out there can help me to understand this whole situation better…

1. Why – when we are in a budget crisis – are we buying office space and renovating new buildings? How much have these new acquisitions cost us, the taxpayers, in the past two years? Has this contributed to the $9 mil we now need to find somewhere?

2. Someone mentioned that administrators get a stipend to pay for the healthcare plan of their choice. If an admin does not use this do they get to pocket this money? I am asking since I know of at least 3 administrators that have teachers that work in the district. Do they just get to get a free ride on their spouses plan and then still get to pocket their stipend? In essence we would be paying them twice for their healthplan.

3. Why have the number of administrators at the educational offices increased over the past 4 years? It appears that there used to be ~10 admin at the ESC but now there are ~15. Why do we need this additional staffing? It seems that as prinicpals have been promoted new positions have been created at the educational offices for them (ie. Donavan, Dinkins, Gusick)

4. Looking at the posted link for teacher salaries I can also see admin salaries. Building on the previous point – the admin salaries make up ~$3.5 mil of the budget. That number does not include whatever stipend they get for healthcare. That number does not include the money we are paying for them to go back to school and earn their doctorates. Again – why do we need to have this many admin each costing us well over ~100,000-$200,000/year?

5. What are these on-line classes they are talking about offering at the high school? I would have liked more information about this instead of reading about it in a blog… How much are these going to cost us? Or are they using it as a way to outsource teaching for a cheaper cost?

It has been several times that everything is out in the open – but I truly find that hard to believe when it seems something new pops up each time I read this blog or minutes to one of the committee or board meetings. If anyone can answer any of these questions I would really appreciate it. I am trying not to place blame, although it is hard not to given the circumstances. I just feel that I do not have all of the facts. Is the teachers union to blame for trying to get a good contract for their teachers? Is the board to blame for accepting a contract that they could not support financially given the other financial obligations (ie. new buildings, admin, etc.)? Are the administrators to blame for not giving the board all of the information they need to make an educated decision?

Governor Candidates Meet with Teachers Union . . . Show Support for Education Funding & Teacher Pensions

In light of all the discussion yesterday with the TESD budget, I thought it would be appropriate to offer an update on Pennsylvania’s governor hopefuls and their meeting over the weekend. In Harrisburg, 6 governor candidates met with the state’s major teachers union, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). These governor candidates all support more state funds for public education and support the state’s commitment for teacher pensions, however only two offered specific ways to raise the billions of dollars that will be needed.

Joe Hoeffel (D) from Montgomery County thinks that the state should move to a graduated income tax, where wealthier people pay at a higher rate, while the middle and lower income residents pay at a lesser rate. The state currently uses a flat, 3.07% income tax rate for all taxpayers. Hoeffel said that 34 states now have a graduated income tax, which focuses a steep tax rate on the top 1% of the taxpayers. Hoeffel believes that this is fairer than the current flat income tax. As a Tredyffrin Easttown School District taxpayer, what do you think of Hoeffel’s proposal of a graduated income tax?

Tom Knox (D) Philadelphia businessman offered a severance tax on natural gas; taxing cigar and smokeless tobacco sales; and ending the loophole which allows companies to shield income by setting up offices in Delaware. I think some of these ideas have been bantered about by Governor Rendell. I don’t know about the other ideas but I sure think we should be taxing cigar and smokeless tobacco sales — why not? We tax cigarettes, why not cigars? I’m not sure why it’s not already being done.

Candidates Dan Onorato (D) from Allegheny County; Jack Wagner (D) state auditor general; and Chris Doherty (D) mayor of Scranton also attended the teacher’s union meeting along with Republican candidate Tom Corbett, state attorney general.

All 6 candidates agreed that school districts around the state need more options for raising money locally than just property tax (however, no one offered an specifics). Hoeffel did offer that nationally, states provide 47% of school funding vs. Pennsylvania only receiving 37% from the state. All candidates agreed that (1) state funding needed to increase beyond 37%; (2) increase funding for early childhood education programs; and (3) help find the $5 billion that starting in mid-2012 will be needed to fund teacher pensions. They all praised the teachers for the recent gains in student scores on standardized tests, saying Pennsylvania was the only state with uniform improvements regardless of grade level.

With all the TESD budget discussion on this site from residents, teachers and school board members, it is beginning to seem that the teacher union is coloring the picture to its members slightly different than reality. Or am I just reading the situation wrong? What is your opinion of the teacher unions . . . are they helping the case for the teachers or are they a contributing factor to the current budget crisis (and unrest) in the community? Anyone wish to weight in on the teacher unions?

Tredyffrin Easttown School District Facing $9.2 Million Deficit . . . What's This Mean for Taxpayers?

In today’s Main Line Suburban Life newspaper, writer Blair Meadowcroft gives an update on Tredyffrin Easttown School District’s severe economic situation. There have been a number of postings and ongoing comments on this blog about the school district budget, but I think we need to bring the commentary back to the front page.

I know that the TESD budget is not a simple problem nor is there a simple fix but I want to pose a question to some of you who regularly comment on school district matters. If you could only offer one suggestion as to how to make a major impact on the budget, what would it be? I know that there is not much chance of re-opening the union contracts for the teachers but if that were possible would that be your solution? Would cost-cutting measures include teacher/staff layoffs? Would you suggest cuts in specific programs (if so, where — foreign language, sports, theater?) Decrease costs with increase in class size? Additional or increase in student activities fees (sports, after-school programs, parking charges) OK, it’s a perfect world and anything is possible (including re-negotiating of teacher contracts). What is your suggestion to the $9.2 million deficit in the TESD budget?

As we have all agreed, there seems far greater resident participation in the township government process than we have noticed with the school district — so I’m suggesting that we get TESD back on the front page of Community Matters. Some of our regulars — Ray, Andrea, Mike of Berwyn, Kate, Sarah . . . I invite your personal suggestions, help the community understand what this deficit means in real dollars to the taxpayers.

Taxing times are ahead for T/E board

By Blair Meadowcroft

The Tredyffrin/Easttown School District is facing a potential $9.2-million deficit for the 2010-2011 school year.

The shortfall comes from the fact that the proposed budget for the upcoming academic year, effective July 1, has expected revenues of $101.9 million and the projected expenditures are $9.2 million more at $111.5 million. According to district business manager Art McDonnell the $5-million increase in employee fringe benefits was the major factor increasing the deficit but there were others.

“The loss of revenue, the loss of transfer taxes due to the loss of sales, commercial mostly, the loss of interest income,” he said. “That’s been ongoing; we’re experiencing that now. And the increase in benefits costs comes from health-insurance coverage, and some from retirement and salaries.”

Increases in health care are to be expected, explained McDonnell, but on average the rates have increased 10 to 15 percent in the past, and this year the increase to the premium rate was 28 percent from Blue Cross.

“We did not expect that much of an increase,” said McDonnell. “This was the first time in a couple of years that the increase was way above what we were planning on. We were also expecting an increase to the retirement rate but not to the extent that it went up.”

The preliminary budget will be discussed again and voted on by the school board Jan. 25. The board however will not be voting on a final tax rate. According to McDonnell, by law the tax rate needs to be set by June 30 and will be voted on in June when the final budget is passed.

But at the Jan. 25 meeting, the board will vote to take one of three actions on the tax rate, according to McDonnell.“Pass a resolution to certify that the 2010-2011 tax rate will be at or below the Act 1 index of 2.9 percent; apply for exceptions to the Act 1 index, which will allow the district to raise taxes above the index without voter referendum; or authorize the administration to begin the process of seeking a voter referendum in May to increase taxes above the 2.9-percent state index,” said McDonnell.

If the board votes to tax higher than the limit set by the Act 1 index, there is the potential for $3 million more in revenue. That would come from an additional 3.73 percent.

However, in an effort to try to not raise taxes, Kevin Mahoney, chair of the finance committee, has asked the administration to come up with different ideas for reducing costs or increasing revenue, and any proposed strategies will be discussed at the Feb. 8 finance-committee meeting as well as at upcoming education-committee meetings.

So far a potential reduction of $2.35 million in expenses has been identified but nothing has been voted on or put into the budget yet.“We have some recommended strategies for the committee to look over and we are going to put together a presentation to show at the Feb. 8 meeting,” said McDonnell. “Hopefully we’ll find a way to combat the $9.2-million deficit.”

Whether or not the board decides to increase taxes, the potential for a deficit of some kind exists for the 2010-2011 academic year. The preliminary budget will again be discussed Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the school-board meeting and Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the finance-committee meeting. The June school-board meeting to vote on the budget is scheduled for June 14. All meetings are to be held at the Tredyffrin/Easttown Administration Offices at 940 W. Valley Road, Suite 1700, in Wayne.

“Public input will absolutely be considered and is encouraged,” said McDonnell. “We always have public-comment times at various points during and at the end of the meetings.”

Community Matters © 2023 Frontier Theme