Over on Community matters, there was some reference made to Abington’s budget process — somewhat with envy it seemed. It’s always good to learn more about other districts — but perhaps a point of pride is in place for me about Tredyffrin Easttown School District. I really want to separate the District from the decisions of the sitting school board. I did my time on the board so I am not about to scrutinize their decisions individually, but let’s just say that there have been several things they have done over the past 5 years I would have opposed. But I’m not on the board anymore — and when I was, I struggled to get the public at large interested in anything we did. It’s constituency-driven politics — not squeaky wheel exactly, but certainly absent any scrutiny of their actions, sometimes the decisions are as “real world” driven as they should be. I have said before — I believe this economy will cause a “market correction” and salaries, benefits and bonuses — things like “retention bonuses” especially, will be a thing of the past.
The sitting board also knows that I believe that the taxpayers and district were not well served when I left the board and the members who continued and those who were new rejected any efforts or input from me before they did the next teacher contract. I had personally negotiated the terms of the expiring contract, and had completely orchestrated the administrative compensation plan. I believe their lack of interest in accepting feedback damaged the continuity of the process — as they made changes to things they had no history of. I’m not saying they were not earnest in their efforts, but having reviewed the documents since my departure, there are a lot of gaps in the thinking. I believe would have helped in continuity. The Union meets in Hershey every summer to develop a state-wide strategy for negotiating. Board members rarely ask for advice — and don’t even talk to other boards in most cases. Such a deal….it sounds like I think I was irreplaceable -and I absolutely do not. My phrase then — no matter how big the boat, it doesn’t create a hole when you take it out of the ocean. I believe that. But I do think that history is critical in negotiations — and the negotiations that followed Carol Aichele ‘s and my departures were done with a new solicitor (our previous solicitor had died in an accident) and without benefit of background. So I do think some of the personnel costs that are under attack cannot be adequately explained much less defended. But they are what they are. I would be happy to address any details that I am aware of.
Anyway — there were references to Abington and their commitment to keeping curricular issues and programs intact — a reference made to a quote that they only look to cut “stufff” — as well as the revelation that their Superintendent was selected Superintendent of the Year. Congratulations to Dr. Amy Sichel, the ASD Superintendent and winner of one of 10 awards for National Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award.
Here are details: eSchool News, a national monthly publication specializing in educational technology, notified Dr. Amy Sichel that she is a national winner in the 2010 Tech-Savvy Superintendent competition. The Tech-Savvy Superintendent program honors K-12 educators who have displayed exemplary vision in the use of technology to further the goals of educating today’s students and equipping them with 21st century skills. Six hundred applications were received by eSchool News, and only 10 winners from across the country were named. The headline proclaiming her status as Superintendent of the Year may be a bit hyperbole — but the award is certainly wonderful for Dr. Sichel and brought with it grant money and more.
I bring up this particular district because even referencing it in our budget discussions seems incongruous with the issues at hane. It is such an example of greener grass — as some posters elsewhere have included Inquirer information about how they go about their budget. Last year, their millage actually “dropped.” Actually, their millage for now is 27.09 mills, down from 27.29 the previous year. That’s on property only. One small point left out — Abington has an earned income tax of .5% — so you would need to look at their budgets, not their millage, to understand what their revenues were forecast to be.
On SchoolDigger.com, TESD is ranked #6 in PA (NCES statistics) Abington is ranked 128th. TESD’s millage is 17.47. Our CLR is .53 in Chester County and the Abington CLR in Montgomery County is .54 — so you can see my other tax calculations to figure it out:
On a house with a fair market value of $500,000 — the assessed value should be .54 of that number: $270,000 (the same assessment as Lower Merion and Upper Merion on a similarly priced home)
The millage on that house would cost $7,314.30 plus .5% earned income tax. Another house bargain discovered? Remember that the 17.47 millage on a house valued at $500,000 in TESD has a tax bill of $4629.55 .
Northern suburb of Philadelphia in Montgomery County
- Includes Abington Township and Borough of Rockledge
- 15.2 square miles, primarily residential
- Total population: 56,444District Organization/Enrollment 2009-2010
|Elementary schools (K-6)||3,774|
|Junior high school (7-8-9)||1,739|
|Senior high school (10-11-12)||1,923|
Professional staff positions: 633.3 Supporting staff positions: 420.9
|Budget Item||Total||Federal Funds
included in total
included in total
included in total
|Salary Items||$ 71,946,518||$ 472,927||$ 10,703,364||$ 60,770,227|
|Employee Benefits||$ 23,368,932||$ 155,230||$ 4,921,407||$ 18,292,295|
|Non-Salary Items||$ 31,731,955||$ 69,352||$ 4,490,799||$ 27,171,804|
|ARRA Stimulus Reserve||$ 1,533,308||$ 1,533,308||$ 0||$ 0|
Real Estate Tax:
- The 2009-2010 tax rate is set at 27.09 mills. This means that for every $1,000 of assessed property value, $27.09 in school taxes is levied. The millage rate reflects a decrease of .7% when compared to the millage rate for the 2008-2009 school year.Earned Income Tax:
- The 2009-2010 tax rate is set at 0.5%
Items in our budget over which we have little or no control:
- Cyber and charter schools
- Additional enrollment
- Dramatic increases in fuel and utility costs
- Increasing retirement/pension costs
- Increasing medical insurance costs
- Unfunded and underfunded mandated programs including special education classes and other programs and costs
- Low level of state funding for education and decreasing federal funds
- Increasing costs of textbooks, instructional materials, supplies and ever-increasing importance and costs of instructional technology
Future Plans of Graduates (Class of 2009):
- Higher Education: 88%
- Employment: 11%
- Armed Forces: 1%
Once I am able to review their year to year budget, I will advise you whether cutting “stuff” really reduced their expenditure budget as some have claimed…anecdotally. But please read their “things over which we have little or no control” as it’s pretty much true for every district in Pennsylvania.