TESD Facilities Committee Update

To update . . . I attended the Facilities Committee meeting on Friday morning.  The meeting started at 7:30 AM and lasted until 11 AM!  Dr. Pete Motel is the chairman of the Facilities Committee; school board members Karen Cruickshank and Anne Crowley serve on the committee and attended.  Also in attendance for the meeting was Superintendent Dr. Waters, Business Manager  Art McDonnell, Controller Jeff Curtis, Construction Manager Bob Plyler, and Architect Tom Daley.  School board president Betsy Fadem was in attendance for some of the meeting.  Ray Clarke, Julia Hanson and 2 other residents also attended the meeting.  The agenda included complete updates on all current and planned district construction projects.

I had never attended a Facilities Committee meeting so I was not sure what to expect . . . Pete Motel could not have been more welcoming to me, and much to my surprise, seemed to appreciate my many questions.  There was not a question that seemed to be off-limits; they could not have been kinder or more patient in their responses.  There will be minutes from the Facilities Committee and I will post them when they become available.  Here are some of the meeting highlights. Ray, feel free to add your comments from the meeting.

I asked about the use of Teamer Field, whether it was available to rent.  Teamer Field is not available and the reason is that there is an agreement with local residents to be mindful of the community with lights, noise, etc.  Aside from specific district school usage, they are respectful of the community and the immediate neighbors by not allowing non-district usage.

The 4 houses on Lancaster Avenue will be demolished in June, after school gets out.  The demolition is being coordinated in conjunction with the township sidewalk project.  It is the intention that the work will be Monday-Friday (during daytime hours) and all neighbors are to be notified of the demolition schedule.  Originally slated for additional parking, this land will be seeded and the parking lot project has now moved to the 2011/12 budget.  When pressed, Dr. Motel does not think that the parking lot will ever be constructed, period.  It does not appear that there continues to be a parking need. This will be savings of $1million+ in the 2011/12 budget.   There was a question about whether the Old Lancaster property could be sold — it’s not so much whether or not it could be sold.  Dr. Motel was absolute that the District will hold on to the property; it will not be sold.  The ESC building (next to Easttown Library) is slated for demolition in the fall.  That building has major asbestos issues and its demolition will remove a yearly maintenance cost to the district.

I asked how the land on Old Lancaster Ave and the 1st Avenue (ESC site) would be used in the immediate future. Future usage had not been decided — I made the suggestion that perhaps the space(s) could be used as a community garden or perhaps middle or high school student garden projects.  Just thought that this could create an opportunity for a partnership between the District and the community — maybe even a ‘feed the hungry’ type of garden.  Not sure where I should take those suggestions . . . maybe there is a local nonprofit that would like to get involved.

At the end of the meeting, I thanked all those in attendance at the meeting for their indulgence with my questions.  I can not stress enough — Pete Motel and all in attendence offered complete access and transparency.  I was most impressed!

 

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48 Responses

  1. I do agree that there was an open exchange at the meeting, and it was very helpful for folks like me who are new to the Facilities Committee. The process for managing the expenditure of agreed projects seems to be very thorough, but there may be opportunity to have project selection decisions reflect the fact that the days of easy money are gone.

    Now the district is saddled with a) $1.3 million of investment in the four properties along Old Lancaster, plus another $0.1 million to demolish the houses, and b) an additional $1 million plus in 2010/11 to demolish the (hazardous) ESC building just to leave as open space, because we need to keep the parking spaces for the playing fields next door. But at the same time there are decade-old vehicles that break down under the demands of snow plowing and whose replacement is deferred because of operating budget pressures.

    Now that we are running out of capital reserves, enrollment is falling and we are faced with ~$4 million a year annual capital replacement need, I think that the board needs to leave no stone unturned in evaluating options to realize value locked up in these properties. I must admit that there are many constraints to exiting from these problems – but that’s why we pay those top tier admin salaries….

    Not building the un-needed parking lot was a good first step. Of course the $1.2 million saving that Pattye mentions is only a saving compared to a number written on a piece of paper! (Similar savings versus prebid estimates were quoted for all the projects reviewed on Friday – an important metric to be sure, but not a saving).

    Maybe it will be possible to stretch out equipment lives beyond the current assumptions, and that should be tested, but there seems to be little doubt that a bond financing will be needed. It’s important to realize that this is not free money – for the $20 million being discussed, taxpayers will be on the hook for $0.7 million additional annual interest cost and of course for repayment or refinancing of the principal. (I hope the board is on the lookout for the high banker fees being charged for the proposed “Build America” bonds, reported in last week’s Wall Street Journal).

    So, yes, back to Pattye’s post, there was lip service paid to transparency, but it’s still hard to get basic information that would help the public assess how their money is proposed to be spent. While we can see full details of the Superintendent’s $300,000 compensation package on the web site, it takes a right to know request to get an 18 page listing of the projects underlying the $4 million annual capital budget.

    Finally, the admin budget package for the Monday Budget workshop has been published http://www.tesd.net/budget/10mar15workshop_pres.pdf With a 2.9% tax increase and $4 million of expense cuts (not all 100% certain), there’s a $2.7 million gap remaining to come from the fund balance or from more cuts. That the deficit is projected to come right back up to $8.2 million for 2011/12 can leave no doubt that further action is needed. Let’s hope that the board follows through on the commitment to consider the long term.

  2. That’s business as usual with the Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board. They are the most competent school board around. Unmatched. Rest easy, community members.

    • I think you better check out Council Rock.

      9 Million and the hole and constantly caving into the union and you call these characters the most competent board around.

      Talk about unreasonably looking at the glass half full.

      Perhaps we should be looking for something better.

      I think we need an active TEA Party in Tredyffrin.

      Here’s a thought, how about raising your bar more than an inch off the ground…

      • TE Mom – Please forgive Mr. Petersen for being rude. He is an angry man who isn’t happy unless he is complaining. The day he has something constructive to say will be the first.

        The TE-SB consistently has provided an excellent education at a great price and are to be commended.

        P.S. Funny video and I hope Mr. Petersen takes the advice.

      • Have you seen the teacher salaries in Council Rock? What is it that you want us to “check out?.” Their Step 0 teachers earn $52K+. Step 1 is $56K. Their preliminary budget for 2010-2011 is a 6.9% increase, using a 3% except to recover revenue from assessment appeals and 1.5% for PSERS. They are a wonderful district — 12,000 students. I don’t follow them closely so I’m wondering just what it is you want us to check out? Raising WHAT bar more than an inch off the ground? “Something better”…. Schooldigger.com ratings — TESD #6 out of 536; CRSD #77.

  3. Thanks TE Mom for your comment. Folks who attend board committee meetings – all of which are open to the public – know that the school board is trying very hard to make the best decisions possible, with as much transparancy as possible. They also know that school issues are very complex. Committee meetings typically run at least two hours and often run three or four hours.

    Disagreements among board members are most often resolved at committee meetings, which explains why there is not so much debate and discussion at the monthly board meetings. There are a number of committees with input on every decision – one issue might invlove finance, education, and facilities, for example. If all the debate took place at the monthly meeting, that meeting would be six, eight, or ten hours long.

    I was on the board for eight years, and I have often heard the complaint that the board makes hasty decisions, back-room decisions, decisions without any public process or discussion in the sunshine. The oft-cited “evidence” for this complaint is that there is not a lot of discussion at the monthly meeting and the votes are frequently 9 – 0. Of course that is an exaggeration – there are heated discussions at monthly meetings and the votes are not always 9 – 0.

    But, if you only follow monthly meetings, you might get the wrong impression. I would advise anyone with questions or concerns to contact the board directly and also attend committee meetings that deal with your area of concern. If you do so you will find the transparency and professionalism that TE Mom speaks of. You may not agree with the board’s decisions – and that’s OK – but at least you will understand why a decision was made and you will know that it was made with a great deal of thoughtful consideration.

    TE has always enjoyed the benefits of having excellent school boards. The district is not perfect and many citizens over the years have raised legitimate concerns (I was one of them, which is why I ran for the board in 1999 on the class size issue). But over all, TE is the among best districts in the state, educationally and operationally.

    Not only does the district deliver top quality, it does so with excellent fiscal efficieny. TE ranks among the LOWEST school property taxes in the state. The Pennsylvania department of Education website has a lot of data, including taxation effort. Last time I checked, TE ranked 478 out of 501 school districts in the state in terms of taxation. In other words, on that list number 1 is the highest, and number 501 is the lowest. During my eight years on the board, TE consistently ranked in the 470’s on that list.

    • His brother chose to run for the Board was elected and is working for the common good, even if you can see no good in anything. “Stick to dermatology?”
      Jeez, isn’t everyone on this blog sick of this guy? Unhappy, angry mean spirited guy.. Your life must be hell and you distract from the conversation. Trying to learn stuff here and you just make it impossible. This is a better place when you don’t contribute.

    • I want to thank former members who come here to explain things we are all wondering about. And Mr. Petersen — you need to keep your posters straight. It was Andria who talked about board members not reading all their materials and voting against the air conditioning at the high school. I think Kevin Grewell explains it in another way — there are are so many committee meetings and that’s where the meat of the discussion takes place. Someone had said Pete Motel was rude to a member who voted against some tile in a courtyard (sorry — don’t remember the complete details) and Andria (who I believe is also a former board member) was explaining that in facilities sometimes that happened (voting against something) that the board member didn’t necessarily understand — just opposed.
      Andria and Kevin ? Am I right on this. And for the nasty comments about business — I think several members of the board are active in business. Kevin Mahoney is something like the CFO at Penn Health. I don’t think people already elected have to justify their qualificaitons to you anyway — John. WHAT do you do for a living except surf the internet looking for information you can bash people with? Take credit for a change of policy on the BOS because you wrote a lawsuit and posted it online? A recent law degree from Rutgers? No indication of any firm association? An expired Microsoft credential — no indication it is still active anyway. See — others can google….Be nice.

  4. Oh, Mr. Peterson…there’s plenty of real estate available in the Council Rock School District. Seems like you may be happier there. I’m thinking they may be the audience for your negative, “I always see the cup half empty” blogging.
    ps. Maybe Daylight Savings Time has gotten to you? Maybe you could take a second and watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giTIlL_QAeM&feature=related

  5. John – I never said board members do not read their materials – I don’t know where you got that idea, but it was not from me. To the contrary, I for one read hundreds of pages every month to prepare for the 10 or more hours of meetings I attended each week for the nine months of the school year. I believe other members did the same judging from the fact that they seemed very well informed at all times.

    I also never said anything about Dr. Motel getting bad advice. You can’t even get your facts straight with respect to a short comment on this blog.

    As for the management of the district, the fact is it is one of the best in the state AND one of the most efficient fiscally.

    The problems in TE are due to unfunded mandates and restrictions from Harrisburg, and all school districts in the state are experiencing the same problems right now. Are they all poorly managed?

    Maybe you should study state law and regulation applicable to school districts including Act 1 of 2006. You should also study the pension grab made by the legislature a few years ago when they increased the multiplier and caused the exponential growth in PSERS costs – passed along to the school districts.

    • I would just like to comment again on the fact that T/E SB makes the best decisions they can, with the information they have, at the time they are making said decisions. It’s easy to sit on a fence and point fingers in hind sight. When the properties were purchased, the market hadn’t crashed and we were not in a recession. I think given the fact that we don’t have enough space for the growing student population , the cars and traffic that come with that, and the need for fields for sports, which are currently in short order. all great reasons to purchase adjacent properties. There has to be long term plans for growth. Mr. Peterson, maybe you could suggest some realistic solutions instead of the constant stream of negativity and knock downs. Complaining about what’s done helps no one.

    • better yet, why doesn’t someone ask mr drucker why he hasn’t done anything about it… perhaps because he is in the pocket of the teacher’s union?

  6. >>JP: Like the BOS, the TESD Board placed an over-reliance on property transfer tax.<<

    I apologize if this is already posted elsewhere, but this comment confuses me every time I read it. HOW can you over-rely on a revenue stream? I realize you can spend too much knowing you don't have to raise taxes, because there is a source of revenue to fund the spending — but aside from that option, the only way to not "rely" on transfer tax would be to put it in the lock box and raise millage rates for any and all continuing expenses. It seems to me that this complaint comes from a taxed public that does not want their taxes raised — so relying on an alternative source UNTIL IT RUNS OUT avoids having to dip into the taxpayer's pocket. Both the SB and the BOS had significant fund balances from those years of high revenue from transfer taxes, and it was using those "rainy day funds" for ongoing expenses (instead of coming prematurely to the taxpayers) that created the demand for a higher than "normal" tax increase. The TESD has not taxed TO the Act 1 limit because they had other sources of funds. Had they wanted to play the tax game, they would have raised taxes as much as they could every year so they wouldn't need to consider exceptions — your millage rate would be much higher today and would only need to go up the 2.9% allowed.
    So — the lesson? Don't rely on other sources of revenue — just the ones you can control. And do what with the other sources?
    Act 1 has created fake tax rates. PSERS will blow up the state if what is predicted for TESD actually happens — because locally we probably have the resources to levy the taxes to get the bills paid…but that is NOT true in many, many places. So JP can knock our low tax "effort" as being a bad metric — not sure how he would feel about a huge tax effort. Rise to the top? (I'm not asking for your opinion by the way– though somehow I know you won't resist finding some caustic comeback)

    • John:

      “I’m 100% OK with an EIT … to our detriment”. Your thoughts on the EIT were extensively discussed on your blog, Tredyffrin Township Political Notebook, last fall. My understanding from that discussion, based on what YOU said, is that according to the statute, Tredyffrin cannot implement an EIT only on those that live outside of Tredyffrin, but work in the Township – an EIT would also have to apply to ALL Township residents. So, according to the figures presented by Mimi at the November Budget Workshop, we would get the $2.7mm (not $3mm) but the Township’s residents would pay an additional $4.3mm in NEW taxes. BTW, while the fact that our residents pay taxes to other jurisdictions does not directly benefit Tredyffrin, it is not to “to our detriment” – there is a difference.

      “The tax study commission, put forth the argument that a Personal Income Tax was the fairest tax – knowing that it would get defeated.” Maybe the tax study commission put forth the argument because it is true – a Personal Income Tax is more fair than an EIT.

      “The irony in all of this is that property taxes are the most regressive taxes of all.” Talk about an “intellectually dishonest” statement! Please refer me to any legitimate economic research that supports this assertion. Sales taxes on necessities, poll taxes, gasoline taxes, and “sin taxes” are some of the taxes considered more regressive.

      As YOU said, “Nothing like the facts getting in the way of a good story!!”

      • Reread your posts on your blog. YOU suggest that the statute requires that if we tax the people that work in the Township, that tax would have to apply to those that work AND live in the Township – this would be a NEW tax on those residents You suggest that we might be able to offer them property tax relief. BTW, in reviewing virtually every township in Chester County, every one imposes their EIT on both residents and non-residents, working in the Township or not.

        You said that, “property taxes are the most regressive taxes of all.”
        Again, please direct me to legitimate research that supports this
        statement. For example, the Local Services Tax is clearly more regressive – $52/year whether you make $12,000 or $1,000,000. At least with property taxes there is a general correlation between income and property value.

        BTW, it’s HeAberg.

        • Sorry Mr. Headberg…

          <<
          that tax would have to apply to those that work AND live in the Township
          <<

          Not what I said…Not what I suggested. If you took it as
          such, then you misread.

          As to my assertion re: property taxes and being regressive:

          With regressive taxes, there is an inverse relationship between the tax rate and the taxpayer's ability to pay as measured by assets. Whether I make 0 dollars or
          10 million dollars, my property tax rate does not change.

          Your example necessarily precludes the possibility that people are in homes and then lose their jobs or retire – with a corresponding reduction of income.

          C'mon Mike… you can do better than that!

          • Okay , John, here’s a copy of YOUR quote on 12/11/09:

            “At this point, I am only advocating an EIT that is directed to those who work in the township – not live in the township. Yes – those who live in and work in the township would be adversely affected. I think that is a small group of people. And perhaps to those folks, they could get property tax relief. I think that is permissible under the statute.”

            Now, tell me what you said and suggested?

            To your point about regressive taxes, “property taxes are the most regressive taxes of all.” They are not the MOST regressive taxes – Unlike the Local Services Tax, there is, in fact, a correlation between household income and the value of one’s home and thus, their real estate taxes.

            • at what point does it come down to JP saying something like ‘it depends of what the definition of the word is is’?

      • $300,000 is nit-picking? It’s enough to pay for the fire departments’ funding request.

  7. You find it amusing that people who already served are here to defend their records? I appreciate that they are still patient enough to explain issues on this board! I think what they have said is helpful. I don’t think explaining how things work (which is what Pattye has asked for this blog to be — helpful exchanges) should be called defending their records.

    I really don’t get your purpose John, unless it is simply to annoy and incite. I don’t see any contribution that is likely to benefit this community.

  8. I have tried to be amused by you and stay patient — but in response to my posting that others who contribute, despite your rude snipes, have been helpful to me, you do your bashing thing again.

    The purpose of my post, John, was to thank others for their contributions. Why am I not surprised that you don’t get that?

    I am done posting any responses to you and I hope others will join me for now until you develop some filters for your outbursts.

  9. Sarah, I am on board with the boycott. Who knows, maybe it can turn into a “movement”.

  10. I wanted to comment on the EIT – when we did the public hearings for Act 1 we heard from more people than we ever heard from on any issue (and the board has not heard from anywhere near that many people since). The vast majority of them were strongly opposed to ANY form of income tax, before the Tax Study Commission had even rendered its findings – the hearings obviously occurred before the Tax Study Commission issued its final report. The same opposition was heard a couple years earlier during the previous version of tax reform, Act 72.

    The property tax is regressive, and nobody likes it either, but I don’t think you can sell any form of income tax in this community based upon the reaction we got during Act 72 and Act 1.

    The Personal Income Tax ( PIT) was more fair (in the opinion of the Tax Study Commission) because the EIT hit hard-working families and excluded dividends on investments, which is deemed “unearned” income. There is TONS of unearned income in Easttown – an EIT would miss all of that, miss taxing the people who really could afford it most while taxing working families, many of whom can ill afford it.

    Your insinuation that the board cynically manipulated the Tax Study Commission to deliberately tank the vote by making the Commission go for an unpopular PIT is the kind of nasty, untrue, disrespectful personal attack that I object to. The accusation slanders the board and the Tax Study Commission members. That is not legitimate commentary and adds nothing to this process. Your accusation ignores the plain fact that the EIT was equally unpopular.

    By the way, I had not been following this blog. I tuned in because someone told me that my name came up, and I decided to see what people were saying about me. I probably will quit looking at this blog from now on because it is pointless to engage in a debate with someone like you who is interested in making a nasty personal attack out of every issue instead of a stand up fight on the issues.

    There are indeed answers and arguments to every point you have raised, but you are not really interested in hearing these, you are only looking for opportunities to use in your personal attacks.

  11. Pattye, Thank you for your comments on the Finance Committee meeting. It is nice to hear that you felt that the community members and comments were weel received by Dr. Motel.
    While I have been intrigued by the fact that to date nothing has been done with the ESC building – and that nothing is in the Plans other than to study how to demolish the building – I am encouraged by your thoughts on making use of the space to help the community. I would have thought that the Board or the Superintendent would have come up with any number of ideas for its use – like the community garden or an after school “hangout” for kids or a tutoring center.
    I am also saddened the comment from Dr. Motel that the District will hold on to the 4 other properties and a sale will not be considered. Did he explain “Why?” or was it simply dismissed with a short firm statement that the Board knows best.
    I am intrigued as well by the comments that we need to be prepared for future growth. I am at a loss as to where housing development can be undertaken in the district. When I do look at the Mc Mansions being built it seems to me that any youngsters in those households might well be going to Episcopal Academy, Haverford School or Agnes Irwin.
    It might be well if we could get a list of the real estate owned by the District, the current use of the properties, any zoning restrictions on the properties and the fair market values. This is a school district not a real estate holding company.

    • It is my understanding that quiet a few parents who live in the mcmansions are under the same financial burden as the rest of us are…students are being transfered into public schools due to parents cutting back as well. I believe it’s a trend worth watching. There is always the turnover as retired and elderly sell and young families move in.

    • Papadick – Prepared for future growth = Student population growth. Not sure what data projections they are looking at that support the notion of growth in the foreseeable future, but nevertheless student population growth doesn’t need new housing developments to occur. The student population can also grow as result of turnover of existing home, or as result of private school families electing to join the public school program….

      Mc Mansions? Seriously? For the record, plenty of the current TESD students live in larger homes, as do many of the Catholic school population, and many of the private school kids as well.

      • The real danger of future growth comes from Easttown and a few properties in Tredyffrin — where farms are subdivided, or multi-family developments come into play. The Greens at Waynesborough were basically responsible for the need to add classrooms on every elementary school — and when that parcel was developed, there was no requirement by the Easttown PC to designate land for future school use. At least when Chesterbrook was built, there were one or two parcels identified for school use (though a few years ago when TESD added fields onto the middle school, there was all kinds of effort to try to stop that from “ruining the view” of people who bought homes adjacent to the undeveloped land.

    • JP — stop wasting everyone’s time — go find a job and debate with your future former bosses.
      The sale of Paoli and Strafford was not strategic — but was done so long ago even the people working for TE are not likely to know any names. Those schools were both on the verge of desegregation orders — and were filled with asbestos. Both buildings should have been demolished and (like the ESC) the land retained for future use There are plenty of strategic plans with the school board — but it turns over every 2 years and from what Kevin has said above, requires far more effort than most understtand, and it does seem a tad thankless given the attacks you make as his cost of being elected…

      • Without getting into any debate about the sale — I would however ask “township reader” if these facilities are currently being used rather than being torn down as he implies was the solution. If my memory is still good I believe both facilities are fully utilized today for educational purposes.

  12. John,

    I said I was going to quit, but I’ll go one more first.

    I never question anyone’s First Amendment rights, I welcome the exercise of free speech. The problem I have is that you do, indeed, erect a straw man in every one of your posts. Let the readers judge for themselves on that!

    Several points: (in your reality)

    1) Apparently, every board member ever elected is incompetent.

    2) Ergo, every decision ever made by said board members is stupid.

    3) The local GOP controls the board.

    4) The problems we now face are not Harrisburg’s fault.

    Let’s take these one by one.

    1) This is the lgoical fallacy of the straw man argument. It is also over-generalization, another logical fallacy. The record of excellence in T/E destroys your assumptions.

    2) Over-generalization again. Not every (or even most) of the decisions made by the board over the years was a mistake. Again, the record disproves this. Dammned near the best district in the state AND nearly the lowest school property taxes to boot. (#478 out of 501) Sounds like some of our decisions were good ones.

    3) Your own comments on GOP control are contradictory. GOP is all about no tax increases. The T/E board raised taxes every year. Ergo, no Republican control! I can tell you there was never any interference or control. The GOP committee members would sometimes show up at budget time and plead with us not to raise taxes. And then we would raise taxes! Some GOP control!

    (PS – it is not true that we raised taxes every year. After an aggressive cost control initiative, we had one year with no tax increase. When I first came to the board, we had 6 – 7% increases the first two years, then a 9% increase – the Late John Waldyer came and made an impassioned plea, and we passed the increase – again, some GOP control! By the time I was in my second term, we had improved our operations considerably – the average tax increase for my last four years on the board was 2.19% when inflation was running between 3.5 and 4%)

    4) State funding went from a historic high of roughly 50% of the cost of public education to only 34% today, during which time the cost of education more than doubled. Why? because of unfunded mandates. T/E, by the way, as an “affluent” district gets only about 11% of its funding from the state (and about 1/2 of 1% from the federal government). Who doubled the pension multiplier and then passed the cost along to the local districts? Harrisburg! Who passes along hundreds of mandates while capping the taxing authority of the local districts? Harrisburg! Which state has among the lowest state funding for education as a percentage of the cost? You guessed it – Pennsylvania!

    I take exception to your comments about former board memebers defending their records. Of course I defend my record. I was attacked. I suppose I am expected to simply say “How right you are, John! I am incompetent, and everyone I ever served with was incompetent, and all the decisions we ever made were stupid! Thank you for your wisdom in pointing that out for us!”

    By the way – the Tax Study Commission articulated some sound reasons for supporting the PIT – I urge readers to read the report for themselves and see. Among them are that the PIT taxes a broader base, and therefore requires a LOWER tax to fund the required Homestead Exception under Act 1. For example, to fund the minimum tax relief, a PIT would require a rate of .6% (“point six percent”) while the EIT would require .8%. To fund the maximum exclusion, the PIt needs 1% while the EIT would have to tax at a 1.6% rate. The EIT is a HIGHER tax buden, passed along to those who can afford it least – working lower and middle class families.

    I think this is all I have to say. Don’t expect to hear from me again. I will leave it at that, but I urge readers to take everything with a HUGE grain of salt and check the facts for themselves.

    Things are not so bad in T/E and to the extent we have problems, I would urge people to take a hard look at Harrisburg’s role in creating those problems.

    Good Bye.

    • There are two different laws and EIT’s you refer to. Act 1, where the EIT must be dedicated to fund homestead exclusions for porperty tax relief (and therefore this EIT is NOT an answer to the district’s overall funding problems – Act 1 income taxes only reduce property tax, they do not add ONE RED CENT to school district funding) and the Local Tax Enabling Act – Act 511 which authorizes a 1% EIT.

      Again, the citizens we heard from were overwhelmingly opposed to ANY income tax.

      Also, even with the Act 511 EIT, the idea that a ton of money will “come back” from other municipalities that do levy the EIT and be recaptured by T/E is not all it is cracked up to be. Yes, some would be recaptured.

      But a lot of our residents who pay an income tax work in Philadelphia and the Sterling Act applies. Even if an EIT is imposed in T/E, residents who work in Philadelphia will still have to pay the Philadlephia wage tax – and they will get a Sterling credit for that amount, reducing the amount they have to pay to the local EIT – in other words, they will not have to pay the local EIT, a loss of revenue to the district – i.e., money that DOES NOT “come back home”.

      Now, the state, under Act 1, is supposed to reimburse the school district for the lost revenue under the Sterling credit – I am not sure that even applies under a straight-up EIT imposed under Act 511 (instead of Act 1) but that issue would have to be looked into. I don’t think state reimbursement for Sterling credits is available under Act 511, but to be honest, I would have to resarch that issue. It would certainly be something the community would have to know before enacting any EIT under Act 511.

      Even under Act 1, the reimbursement for the Sterling credit is funded by the property tax relief fund (gaming money) when it reaches $750,000,000. Less than that, and the reimbursement would be pro-rata less than the full amount of the Sterling credit.

      Now, if you had attended the Tax Study Commission meetings, there was considerable discussion of the Sterling credit problem. The data on who pays taxes in Philadlephia is hard to come by – if memeory serves there was considerable question as to whether the district could get good data on that. Perhaps that problem could be solved, but I believe there were – and are – may issues with EIT’s whether enacted under Act 1 or Act 511. One Act 511 issue is that if the school district enacted a 1% EIT, the township could (and under this scenario probably would) enact an EIT as well – in which case the 1% must be shared equally between the district and the township. So if T/E enacted an EIT, the township could grab half of the revenue.

      Act 1 was rejected by the voters . As for Act 511, it would require a lot of research to determine whether an Act 511 EIT could close the budget shortfalls in the future.

      I frankly doubt it. An EIT is very subject to downturns in the economy, so when the economy tanks and the real estate transfer taxes go down, that is the same time an EIT woudl go down in revenue generating capacity.

      In any event, most people around here don’t want an income tax. That could change over time, but for the forseeable future, it is not going to happen.

      Oh, I forgot to mention that in 1971 school taxes were 3% of property value. In 1971, average home value was $31,159 and average tax bill was $814 (3%). In 2004, average home value was $425,000 and average tax was $3,566 (.9%).

      Wow these blog are addictive! I really do mean to stop.

    • I’d like to get away from history (except as a guide to the future) and ponder what needs to be done to secure our kids’ education going forward. I think much of the evidence supports John’s advocacy of an EIT. I’ve posted it here before but here goes again, starting with updated budget numbers:

      1. After one round of proposed program changes that have been vehemently opposed by many in the community, plus a 2.9% property tax increase, the school district will still be in the hole by $3 million in 2010/11, $8 million in 2011/12. (Note that it is relatively easy to squeeze expenses for just one year…..). No official word from Tredyffrin yet, but the township will need to fund contracted compensation increases next year, too.

      2. A 1% EIT would raise $9 million for both Tredyffrin township and school district, of which $2.7 million is already paid by residents and $2 million would be paid by non-residents. (Easttown would also have to implement the tax.)

      3. Perhaps a 2010 Tax Study Commission would ask a question like: “Would you prefer that property taxes increase 15% for all, or that the township residents not now paying a 1% EIT do so and the township gets a 1 for 1 match, worth $4.7 million a year now and increasing with inflation?” Might there be a different answer than to 2007’s question, which referenced only shifting taxes from property to income?

      4. There will be in 2011 a county-wide mechanism to collect an EIT at low cost for all the other townships with this tax.

      5. An EIT diversifies the tax base among all income earners and wealth holders.

      6. The TSC stated that: “Had we been presented with compelling funding needs by the school board that could not be satisfied by the present system we may well have endorsed a change in the manner in which our schools are funded.”

      So, given that …
      – There is no willingness by the TEEA to consider deferring accelerating teacher salary increases (6.9% in 2009/10 over 2008/9, and more contracted each year until 2011/12) and sharing health benefit cost increases
      – We need to fund $4 million a year in replacement capital and the capital fund is running dry
      – There is no willingness to unlock capital tied up in unproductive properties (note: enrollment is projected to decline in the short and medium term)
      – $2 million of the $4 million proposed expense savings have only a one time impact

      …it seems to me that the need is indeed compelling. Whatever views one might have of past School Boards, it seems to me that the current one has to operate in a very different economic environment and that their actions should reflect that.

  13. Kevin
    As a former member of the school board — I am sure that you are well aware of the studies that show that “early education” environs have a very very positive impact on a child’s development.
    With that in mind, can you explain why T/E has ONLY half day Kindergarten classes??

    • I was an advocate for smaller class size in K – 3 and therefore I well understand the need for early intervention and quality for the younger kids. As for K being half day, it would come down to cost – benefit analysis like most things.

      If memory serves, we would need more classrooms for full day, and more facility would have to be built. The problem is with Act 1 it will be more difficult to do more – all school districts will be forced to do less until the law is changed or more state funding is provided. Forget about any major initiatives like full – day K. I could not have gotten the class size reductions I ran on today under Act 1. In fact, class sizes are sure to go back up again.

      Sorry, but you can’t get around that. The school board is actually in control of less and less as the state mandates and regulates more and more – and then does not provide the funding to go with the mandates – and what’s more, caps the taxing authority of the local board even as it passes on more expensive mandates.

      On that note, to answer John’s question on what would I do about the current situation – obviously a combination of cuts, imporved efficiency savings (although don’t expect a lot of biggies there – we already did a lot of that) and expoloring all other potential sources of revenue – yes, that would include a reevaluation of an Act 511 tax. I am not a fan of this tax, and neither are most of the citizens as far as I can tell. But eventually it may have to be looked at again.

      However, as I pointed out, there are many problems with such a tax, and I doubt you can get enough even if it is politically feasible – which it is not at present. Act 511 (and Act 1 for that matter) is a poor tool.

      I don’t know about Ray’s numbers (above) but I would not count on them yet until more study is done. For one thing, you do lose the Sterling money from Philadelphia taxpayers and there are a lot of them in T/E. For another, I think school districts cannot tax non-residents under Act 511 (other municipalities can). And the township will probably take half. Again, I am going from memory of discussions I attended years ago – I would have to do some research but I believe what I just said is correct. I frankly don’t believe the solution to our problems is as simple as an EIT.

      What I have been trying to say is that there are big picture issues here that need to be addressed at the state level. If we are to solve this problem with local taxes, we will need better tools than Act 1 and Act 511.

      State funding must be increased. Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom of states in school funding.

      Another thing is cost control – Harrisburg was supposed to look into measures to help local districts avoid costs – such as relief from unfunded mandates -and to date that “effort” has not gone anywhere.

      There are many things that could help – I can’t get into them all – that would be way too long – but here’s one -do you know we are required by state law to bus private school kids at taxpayer expense to all schools within 10 miles of the boundaries of our district? We run 8 schools and bus to – drum roll please – OVER 100 SCHOOLS. A logistical nightmare that costs several million a year (I don’t know the current figure – ask the district).

      Now, private school parents pay property tax too – but 10 miles?!!! How about revising the law so we only bus to private schools within our district? That would save millions. That is what I am talking about!

      What would I do? If I were you I would forget about sniping at the local board and start going after the state legislators for some mandate relief and increased funding.

    • Classrooms and staff. 3 classrooms hold 6 classes of kindergarten. With a full day program, that would require 6 classrooms (and 3 more teachers). Full day programs are available throughout the community — and I believe the school district still has relationships with local programs that pick up or drop off for the kindergarten program and take/deliver from other locations. As a taxpayer, I don’t believe we should be asked to fund a full day program for a program the state doesn’t even require. It’s a nice to have, not a need to have.

  14. My comment asking for clarification from a former school board member as to how a District that is solidly in favor of education – and supports early learning studies – could justify having half day kindergarten classes. I am not surprised by his response — it has nothing to do with the educational values but pure dollars & cents.
    And then he goes on about busing kids for private schools… and making a bold comment that doing so costs the district MILLIONS of dollars. I find that hard to believe but it sure does make good reading and fine press. I would think that the school taxes paid by the families of these kids more than pay for the buses.
    ANd as to the comment from township reader “as a taxpayer, I don’t believe we should be asked to fund a full day program for a program the state doesn’t even require. It’s a nice to have, not a need to have.” Does the state require that a high school have an indoor swimming pool or dyed concrete in the court yard.

    • Here we go again – papdick, our high school DOES NOT have a swimming pool, indoor or otherwise. As for busing figures, anyone who is interested can ask the school district for current figures.

      All day Kindergarten – jeez, I’m sorry, I was busy fighting for smaller class sizes in K-3. I can’t do everything at once. The full day K issue is HUGE – and now that we have tax caps under Act 1 I doubt anyone could get that done, unless the state mandated it. By the way, even if the state mandated it, they would almost certainly not pay for it, so cuts would be made elsewhere, HURTING some other groups of students to benefit the K kids.

      I’ll tell you what, papadick, if you feel so strongly about full-day K why don’t you run for office? In fact, why haven’t you run by now, instead of commenting on a blog and not even having the courage to use your real name?

      I think you should run – get ready to spend hundreds of hours of your time and thousands of dollars of your own money getting elected. If you do get elected (unlikely) you can enjoy hundreds of hours of meetings every year, getting yelled at. If you do accomplish anything (also unlikely) you can enjoy someone yelling at you for some other thing you did not, or could not do.

      Put your money and your time where your mouth is – I did.

      • Bravo Kevin. Well said!

      • Kevin
        I am sorry that you have such difficulty with questions concerning educational values and the impact on kids. I asked simply how this district – one that supports the value of early education in child development – does not have full day kindergarten. It was intended to be an intellectual discussion and you have turned it into a personal matter.
        I have never questioned the intent of your wants to be a Board member but you feel the need to remind all of us about class size in K-3.
        And you constantly throw out ACT1 and tax limitations. Is it not a fact that ACt 1 only limits tax increases authorized by the School Board and if expenses are greater than revenues after reaching the mandated increases allowed by the mandate – then further increases must be approved by a referendum to the residents. So please please please stop blaming ACT 1 –
        I am sorry for using a swimming pool in my discussion — maybe I should have used a football stadium – and an astro-turf field as the example of the items that are not MANDATED by the state.
        And then you go on about my running for the school board. I have seeveral comments on that – the first of which is that climbing in bed with either party is not something I want to do and I do not think that either party would support my independence. Second, I have friends that have served on school boards that came from the corporate arena. They tell me that they did not re-run due to the frustration level – not from the residents but from the Board members themselves and their total lack of understanding how to manage a business. An 85 year old retired stone mason (owner) told me that the real problem with school boards is that 99% of the members had never run their own business.

        So, please try to address the issue(s) that i raise and stop taking things personally – it is a sign of weakness.

        Finally – as to the ESC building — do you know of anyone that buy a new home without having a plan to sell or use the old property?? It is easier when the funding is not from one’s own pocket….

    • PD58
      How do you reconcile living in a community where parents are for the most part perfectly willing to pay the additional costs of excellent education, but they are only 25% of the population? If they want full-day kindergarten, they can use their dollars to enroll in a full day program. There was once a board member who constantly aid “cost causers pay” — and the fact is the state doesn’t mandate kindergarten or bussing — but TESD provides both. They do not have a swimming pool and I don’t know anything about dyed concrete. We cannot talk about OTHER ways to spend money right now — we are in the present, not the past and certainly not the future. Why would you pose such a ridiculous hypothetical to Mr. Grewell? I said it above — full day kindergarten doubles the need for classrooms and staff. It’s not an expense this district can justify. If we could afford it as a district, it s likely we would have an early education center — maybe where Woodlynde is right now? Oh wait — some business men sold that.

  15. Thanks Malvern Rep for pointing out the obvious personal animus here. I don’t know who Papadick is — but I can promise you that his “friends” on the board were not on TE’s board. In my time on the board, business background was helpful (i had it) but the other contributions were equally valuable. The District has a full time business manager and the state has requirements for accounting. “Running your own business” — is nothing like being involved in a state-mandated, multi-union, no “bottom line” environment. Add to that the fact that TESD overlaps “T” and “E” — and the varying township requirements (and fees) are assessed as if the TESD had an ability to choose to build anywhere else.

    I will confirm one of the answers to Papadick — Full Day Kindergarten (which has been studied over the years by community groups) is a facility issue. Those “businessmen” that sold two school locations in the 70s apparently were not strategic. We dramatically added to the 5 elementary schools in the 90s — and didn’t air condition at that time because we couldn’t get FIVE VOTES to do it.

    Here is the long term strategy for your to contemplate:
    The ESC gets demolished and the property becomes tennis courts and a swimming center, with consideration for an early education center if the district acquires the adjacent property (106 acres that fronts on Sugartown but adjoins the ESC land) The Administration moves to TE MS along with all the other functions like IT, Maintenance etc. The Hawkins property becomes the site of the new Middle School, as Mrs. Hawkins was often said to have contemplated.

    Board member change over. Dramatic economic changes limit the ability to save for a rainy day (and certainly the possibilities for thinking out of the box) So no longer is strategic planning very relevant — the ESC is not handicap accessible, and the cost of an elevator, along with a 60 year old boiler, air conditioning (it is an office building after all) and asbestos make leaving it basically a necessity. So here’s what happens:

    The ESC gets abandoned — and the TESD buys office space in West Valley. The district acquires houses surrounding the bus garage to increase flexibility for the area adjacent to TEMS and Teamer. The IT program gets fully relocated to the Daemion House former maintenance building. The Bus Garage houses maintenance — sort of — and Agnes Irwins buys the hawkins Property. PSERS crashes – teachers line up for jobs but then complain that they are not well paid. Residents resist tax increases because of the economic pressure (and the fact that so many people living here have never lived anywhere else).

    Papadick — consider this a Harvard Business Review case. I can give you figures for all of this. I can give you reasons for any of this. Now — what do you do? (Oh yes — you have to get 5 votes for anything you want to do). And the bulk of school board members over the years are lawyers — presumably because their firms encourage pro-bono billing for volunteering in the community. So folks like Don Clarke — a marvelously stubborn but resilient board member — will parse every possible motion you make.

    • Thanks for pointing out some of the very real difficulties involved in getting anything done on a school board – Papadick has no clue how to move an issue as big as all day K.

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