Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD Budget

Agenda and Fact Sheet for January 25 TESD Meeting

Here is the Agenda for tonight’s TESD School Board Meeting. I warn you that it is 74 pages but it might be useful for your review before tonight’s meeting. Several residents have called or emailed to say that they will attend; I hope that many of you will take meeting notes to share on Community Matters. Continuing this important dialogue tomorrow will be important.

I put together some basic information for myself about the budget that I thought I would share. I am not quite sure about the difference in #2 and #3 approach, should the School Board decide tonight to apply for an Act 1 exception. Perhaps one of our resident experts could explain. If any of this information below is incorrect, also please let me know.

Fact Sheet for January 25 TESD Meeting:

Proposed Budget Revenues: $101.9 million
Proposed Budget Expenses: $111.5 million
Proposed Budget Deficit: $9.2 million

Major contributing factor to $9.2 million budget deficit: $5 million increase in employee fringe benefits (example, Blue Cross health care benefits increased by 28%)

Additional contributing factors to budget deficit: decrease in real estate transfer tax, decrease of interest income

Preliminary budget will be discussed and voted on at January 25 TESD Board Meeting; final budget and tax rate will be voted on at June TESD Board Meeting

At January 25 TESD Board Meeting, School Board must vote to take one of these 3 options:
(1) Pass a resolution certifying tax rate will be at or below Act 1 index of 2.9%
(2) Apply for exceptions to Act 1 index (would allow district to raise taxes above the 2.9% without voter referendum)
(3) Authorize the administration to start process to seek voter referendum in May to increase taxes above the 2.9% Act 1 index

TESD tax increase with Act 1 exception can be has great as 6.7%.

TESD Student now Parent Offers His Perspective

This is an interesting perspective from a TESD parent who was also once a student in the district. I don’t know that anyone has commented from this particular angle.

TE Dad speaks directly to the quality of teachers in the district. He makes a point of how the system will protect those teachers of seniority, and perhaps that may be viewed as the flaw by some. On one hand, younger teachers with their enthusiasm (but lack of experience) could be the ones that are best able to engage and excite the students whereas the older, more senior teacher may not be able to reach those same students. On the other hand, a seasoned teacher can offer experience and advice for students (as well as parents) that can be invaluable.

Maybe we can get confirmation from TEEA members on this one . . . how will teacher seniority affect the process? Will teacher seniority make any difference if there are program cuts? What about TE Dad’s suggestion of performance reviews for teachers? Comments anyone?

From TE Dad . . .

What a terrible email from Ms. Ciamacca . . . both of them. She isn’t helping ANYONE. It certainly doesn’t help the teacher’s position. Wow, potentially alienating the parents who are the teacher advocates . . . dumb plan. Maybe the 70 – 80% of TESD taxpayers who don’t have kids in the district will fight for higher taxes in order to save TESD teacher jobs? I hope her tone is much different tonight otherwise she will deepen the division she has already aggravated.

In my experience, as a TE student many years ago, and as a TE parent now, there are many, many, excellent teachers in the district. Some of these terrific teachers also lack meaningful seniority. In fact some teachers are truly a bargain with what they deliver to the kids daily and what they are paid relative to their more senior coworkers.

Conversely, there are teachers in the district now, some with significant seniority who are poor performers, some were poor performers from day 1. Not a lot of them, but not an insignificant number either. The other teachers know who these teachers are, most of the parents probably know them too, especially if they taught your children at any time… These are the teachers most protected and are the ones who most benefit from the misrepresentation of the union.

The union, by protecting poor performing teachers from performance review and reduction isn’t representing the interests of the many, many good teachers very well, and certainly isn’t representing the interests of a junior, high performing teacher AT ALL. Frankly, the union is more concerned with protecting the jobs of senior teachers than the quality of the educational program, and that is by design.

Which teachers out there reading this blog and worried about their jobs would not be willing to be subject to performance review if reductions become necessity?? The likely answer: the poor performers with seniority . . . they are hurting us all . . .

Great Valley School Board Votes to Keep Tax Increase within Act 1 Index of 2.9% . . . But at What Price?

Great Valley School Board Votes to Keep Tax Increase within Act 1 Index of 2.9% . . . But at What Price?

On January 13, I wrote about the ‘standing room only’ crowd at the Great Valley School District (GVSD) budget meeting. (Here’s the link for that post). This week the GVSD board held their regular business meeting with 300 residents in attendance; the major topic was the $3.2 million deficit in their proposed 2010-11 budget. With a projected budget of $78.3 million, the school board voted 6-2 to keep any increase in taxes within the state’s Act 1 index of 2.9%.

Applying for an exception to Act 1, would have allowed the school district to raise taxes as high as 4.7%. Some of the school board members argued that by keeping the tax increase to the 2.9% rate may force the administration in to making some drastic cuts in programs and/or personnel. (However, in the end by a margin of 6-2, the school board votes in favor of using the Act 1 index). There were many residents in the audience who wanted to hold the line on tax increases to the 2.9% or less; some expecting 0% tax increase. There did not seem to be an explanation as to how the budget deficit would be handled; no clear cut answer as to what programs (or people) might find themselves on the cutting block. Because the school board decided not to seek exception to Act 1, a preliminary budget approval is not required until April. The school board will continue the discussion at the finance committee meeting in early February.

Does this news from our neighbors have any effect on us taxpayers in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District? The taxpayers of GVSD have taken a stand (and it appears that the new school board members agreed) to do whatever was necessary to balance the budget, just not raise taxes beyond the 2.9% threshold. Do you agree with their decision? Would you rather see TESD hold the line at all costs — rather than increase taxes above the 2.9% Act 1 index? This decision is going to require GVSD to make major cuts in program/personnel . . . how are the school board members going to make that decision? With the large program cuts required in the Great Valley School District, I certainly would not want to be the person making up the list of programs/personnel for the cutting block!

A View From a Tredyffrin Easttown School District Teacher

I received a comment from a ‘concerned teacher’ in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District. Rather than seeing this comment buried on an old post, I thought it deserved front page attention. I urge the TESD teachers to present their views on the budget crisis in the school district; it’s important that we hear all sides.

It is easy for us to get caught up in this looming school district tax increase and possibly overlook the staff and how they will be impacted by the loss and/or decrease of programs, services, etc. Does the ‘concerned teacher’ make fair statements; does he or she represent how the majority of the TESD teachers are feeling? Should the value of our school district teachers outweigh the cost to the taxpayers? How does the teacher’s contract work — does that mean their jobs are safe from 2010-11 budget cuts? Does a real possibility exist that the school district budget crisis will require staff reduction in TESD? It would be great if some of our school board members could help us understand – their comments would be greatly appreciated. Remember, you can submit comments anonymously, and without email addresses.

Concerned Teacher writes . . .

I hope that when you post and talk about the delusional tax increase of 7.2% in a township ranked 499 out of 501 in millage rates in the entire state of PA, you realize you may be costing me my job as an extremely dedicated teacher in the district. And I also hope that you realize that our lack of passion in demanding health care reform (yes, a public option) enabled Blue Cross to increase the rates on our teacher benefits 28% which has incurred 5 million of the 9.25 million dollar deficit that is about to cause me to lose my job.

But you can continue to rant about your minimal tax increase possibilities to fund the educational system that is consistently one of the top 5 in the state and nation while teachers like myself fall by the wayside and desperately look for ways to support our families come June of 2010. Your quest to stay way more comfortable than you really need to be will cost you the quality of education for your children, and casting teachers, unions, and pensions as the villains of your community is reprehensible. Take a breath, step back, and be thankful for what you have…and realize that you may need one less SUV to pay for it rather than putting teachers out of work.

Malvern Resident Ray Clarke Provides Updates on Tredyffrin Easttown School Board's Finance Committee

Fortunately for us, Malvern resident Ray Clarke not only attended last night’s Finance Committee meeting of the School Board, he also took copious notes. With his email that accompanied the following notes from the meeting, Ray also referenced the attendance at the meeting. Unfortunately, Ray reports that only about 4-5 residents and 3 teachers attended! How is this possible — are we all so focused on the township budget that we don’t have time to be concerned about the school district budget? Far more of our tax dollars are spent on the school budget than on the township budget. If we can fill Keene Hall with residents for the township budget, why not the same attendance for the schoold district budget discussion? I know that the township budget contains a number of emotional issues (including the proposed cut to the fire company, libraries and nonprofits) but our wallets are going to take a far larger cut with the proposed school district tax bill, if we don’t get involved and offer some oversight.

Please take the time to review all of Ray’s notes and comments. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for not only taking the time to attend but to write up his notes!

Ray Clarke’s meeting minutes from December 14 TESD Finance Committee meeting:

  • The projected 2010/11 budget deficit, assuming no changes to programs, is now $9.2 million
  • This is driven by increases vs the current year of: $3 MM (+6%) in compensation, $3.7mm (+24%) in benefits, $0.8MM (+15%) in professional services and $0.7MM (+8%) in other purchased services. Projected revenues are more or less flat
  • Teacher compensation is driven by a contractual matrix based on credits and -wait for it – LONGEVITY
  • If this preliminary budget in approved in January, the district can go to the State to request the ability to increase taxes by another 3.7% on top of the Act 1 maximum of 2.9%.
  • The resulting 6.6% increase, $292 per median household, would raise $5.5MM of the needed $9.2MM, leaving $3.7MM to be found
  • Administration has identified $2.5MM of reductions, of which many could be equally as contentious as a 5% reduction in Township support for firefighters (eg: reduce funding for High School Clubs; reduce art, music, etc in Grades 7, 8; ..…)
  • The teachers have refused to open their collective bargaining agreement.
  • Unquantified, but possibly meaningful additional expense reduction items include self-insuring for medical benefits, a 7 period day at CHS and reductions in non-teaching staff.
  • The gap rises to TWENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS three years out, in 2012-2013. Driven by the ongoing 6% annual compensation increase plus (net) benefits that increase from the current $14MM to $27.5MM, largely due to the state teacher’s pension plan funding needs.
  • $25 million on the back of current real estate taxes of $81 million, would be a 30% PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.

There could be options to draw down some of the $30 million fund balance to offset this, and this apparently ties in to the proposed bond issuance, but I couldn’t follow the explanation. The bond issue item was dropped from the agenda. Note that there is $13 million in the General Fund for “Designated Future PSERS Rate Stabilization”, but the administration said that they do not want to use that. (But what is it for, then?)

When asked directly if they would be interested in reclaiming their share of the >$2.7 million EIT paid by Tredyffrin residents to other municipalities, the $2 million that would be paid by non-residents (with a1% EIT), and of the equivalent amounts from Eastown, the board members were completely dismissive. Only when pushed, did the administration offer that TESD can indeed start the process by telling the Township by November of the preceding year that it wants to implement an EIT. (No good for 2010/11, of course).

The hoary old arguments were raised: the TSC (which loaded the deck, but admitted that it would have a different conclusion in different times), the 2007 public vote (on a completely different question), the variability of earned income (based on personal anecdote), etc.

There’s definitely a sentiment to approve a preliminary budget that gives TESD taxing flexibility up to the 6.6% increase. In theory, residents can then weigh in on their preferences between tax increases and program cuts, and I believe that the administration at least is working hard to be transparent and to facilitate that. The final budget and tax rates will be set in June.

A final point, the Board claimed the ~6% annual compensation increases (and benefits packages) were negotiated based on assumptions that the revenues would cover the increases, but those assumptions were not explained. Presumably a combination of development that increased the tax base (in our pretty much built-out township?) and tax rate increases?


Thank you Ray!

TE School Board — Finance Committee Meeting Tonight (Remember 7.2% Tax Increase is Possible)

The 2010-11 Preliminary Budget will be discussed at tonight’s (Monday, December 14) School Board Finance Committee Meeting, 7:30 PM, Tredyffrin/Easttown Administration Offices (TEAO) at 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne. Here is the Finance Committee Meeting agenda. One of the stated committee goals is to “study implications and impact of converting TE School District to a charter school district” — wonder what that means to the community? I am hoping to receive details post-meeting from some of you who attend. Please read these 2 earlier posts from last month, Looking for School Board Details and Tredyffrin Easttown School District – 7.2% Tax Increase Possible

I’ll be curious if there is any mention of the PA Teachers Pension Fund — see following article:

Friday, December 11, 2009

PA Teachers’ Pension Fund Wants Billions More from Taxpayers

The Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement Fund said today its “plan net assets” used for calculating future pension subsidies shrank to $43 billion at June 30, from $63 billion a year ago.

As a result, PSERS is calling for an 8.22% payroll surcharge on all school payrolls in 2010-11, to be financed by state taxpayers and local property taxpayers, up from this year’s 4.78% levy. Put another way, PSERS wants $1.1 billion next year, up from $617 Million this year, to supplement investment profits and payroll deductions taken from school workers’ checks, so it can pay around $5 billion in annual pensions to retired school workers and administrators.

That’s going to mean either local property tax increases, plus more money from the state’s pinched revenues; or some quick legislating to postpone the problem once again.

PSERS also says the surcharge should go up to 29% of payroll, or more than $4 billion, in 2012-13.

To read more from PSER, click here

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