Sunday, March 1, 2009

What will be cut???

With a budget deficit looming in the $14 million range for next year, a poor investment market, and stalled contract negotiations, this truly is a perfect storm for Neshaminy. Now the Board must tackle this issue head on as we plan for the 2009/2010 school year budget.

The next Strategic Action Meeting planned for tomorrow night (Monday, March 2) will feature a frank discussion by the Board of what must be done to offset some of this deficit. In times like these, nothing can be considered sacred - not fulltime kindergarten, not extracurricular activities, not even educational programs. This isn't something that any of us on the Board are looking forward to, but it isn't something we can avoid either.

As parents and taxpayers, you'll want to pay close attention to what decisions the Board makes in the coming weeks. Your attendance at upcoming meetings is strongly encouraged.


sleepless in neshaminy said...

correction: football is considered sacred in Neshaminy.

William O'Connor said...

Our extracurricular activities are very important Sleepless, but none are more important than our educational programs. These activities can be affected by this situation without necessarily being cut. For example, the Board could implement a policy that students are responsible for paying a percent of the cost for them to participate in an activity. If we were to implement such a policy, it would apply to ALL activities including football.

Angie said...

Having students pay for extra curricular activities isn't a bad thing. I came from a district that the budget didn't pass (Plymouth, Michigan) and the board decided to have all student pay to play. I was in the marching band. We paid $600 for a season per person. We could fundraise to pay it. If a student had financial difficulties (received free or reduced lunch) they could play but had to fundraise only. This was 20 years ago. Today, the marching band is still not receiving funds from the board but is completely funded through fund raising. They put a cost out there per student but no one pays that. They raise the money from fund raising. And to top it off, they hire the best coaches from all of the US and fly them in just for the weekends to work with them. The band has been ranked top in the country 3 times since this happened. So going the route of pay to play, isn't that bad. It can be done and with success.

Pianomom said...

I would hate anything to happen to our after school programs, but I hope that the arts aren't singled out for cuts while athletic programs are untouched. Sleepless in Neshaminy is right that football is considered sacred by many. The Board should be sure that all programs are either protected or suffer equally.

sportsfan said...

To: Mr. O'Connor:

I think the extracurricular sports activities are just as important as the educational programs.

Sports teach valuable life lessons in winning, losing, hard work, dedication, unfairness, good and bad coaching, teamwork and other issues which will help a student in various areas of life.

I hope that any budget cut does not affect the sports programs of Neshaminy.
In Neshaminy, we make poor financial decisions to save money, but we rarely look at the big picture.

IrishFarm said...

See where the teachers union demands have brought us. We can't afford to pay them so now we may have to cut student activities and education programs.

William O'Connor said...

Sports programs are important just as any of our extracurricular activities are (sports or otherwise), but remember our financial situation - $14 million deficit - and it ain't gonna pay itself. We're going to use up all of the inflationary limit the state permits us, we'll probably use some of the exceptions they allow, and we still may not cover the deficit.

Jose said...

hey sportsfan all of our kids activities are important but not as important as the education itself. what oconnor is saying is that education is first, all other things are second and they will be treated equally. i hope nothing has to get cut either but if it does i feel better that the board won't show favortitism to just sports.

Neshaminy Frogger said...

To Mr. O'Connor,
Has any thought been given by the board to an alternative week like many of the state governments are doing? A 4 day week (with longer days obviously) seems to be cutting costs for many state governments and private companies in terms of fuel & transportation costs, heating, and other such costs. Is that even an option given the current situation? It may not help next year's budget, but it could get us to the summer by limiting some of the loss.

JS said...

I need to remind everyone about something. ALL co-curricular advisor/coach positions are negotiated in the Teacher's Contract.

That means that even if you make little Billy pay to be part of the School Paper, little Suzie pay to play in Marching Band, little Danny pay to be in the play, and even little Joey pay to play football, all the coaches and advisors for those activities are guaranteed by the contract to make money. Until the new contract is negotiated you can't do anything about their pay.

So essentially the students would have to pay extra while the teachers get the same compensation. Sound fair to you?

Also take this number into account. Total supply budget for the entire district's Health and Physical Eductation as well as Athletics was only $86,000. That's not a huge number, so any real cost savings would come from not paying the coaches/advisors so much, but sadly you can't cut that.

I for one wouldn't be able to stomach making children pay for teachers to pad their pension. (Oh by the way, the money they make for coaching/advising goes directly into the figure used for their pension. Make $5,000 extra for coaching soccer, your pension figure goes up as well.)

Start putting staff on leave. Put support staff on leave, put administrators on leave. Stop letting every child who has behavior issues be labled "Special Ed". I seem to remember you actually had to have some sort of educational disability to be "Special Ed". Now anyone who can't sit still is labled, and thus costs the district almost twice the amount per student.

I realize we need to cut, but it comes down to this. $124 million of the proposed budget is salaries and benefits. That means even if we cut EVERY supply, every program funding we would be able to save $43 million (Proposed budget cost $165 million). That means with a $14 million short fall we could cut EVERYTHING else and only save a total of $29 million.

Any one else feel right putting the burden of outrageous salaries and benefits at the feet of our students? I sure don't.

LivininLevittown said...

Angie has the right idea. Some of these costs have to be paid by the students or their families. You should also pass a rule that parents should pay an additional tax per child they have in the district.

William O'Connor said...

You get an A+ for creativity, Frogger, but unfortunately the idea would be complicated to implement. And yes, we'd have to get concessions to the current teachers contract to make that happen.

My compliments to you, JS, for putting in tremendous research so that you understand the currrent contract situation. Clearly you have taken the time to read and comprehend all the fine points of the agreement. Not everyone may agree with your views, but nobody can criticize your knowledge of the facts.

JS said...

Another note, I realize addressing comments on the BCCT site is not always productive, but was the Administrator's contract settled recently?

I sure hope not, and I hope even more that if it is there was a cut in pay/benefits from the previous one.

William O'Connor said...

JS, I'm not aware of any agreements between the administrators and the board negotiation committee. I'm sure if and when there is a final agreement, the board will announce the details to the public.

Blume said...

I really like this website much more than the courier. You give us useful Neshaminy information, and the people on your blog are more civil to each other. There are alot of nasty exchanges at the courier blog.
I sure hope teachers read this blog and see there are many reasonable people who appreciate them but cannot agree with their demands. I don't want to bash teachers because I respect what they do but I can't support the outrageous demands they've made for the contract.
The only way this thing will end peacefully and soon is if the teachers show they will agree to concessions. Please tell your union leaders that you want this settled and to give up on the unrealistic demands.
Thank you William for this website. Never known a politician to keep in such close touch with the people they represent.

Blume said...

Off topic question, Mr. O'Connor. Speaking of the Courier blog, I read a reader comment there that a person named Lindner was the catalyst behind the last superintendent's departure. Is that true? Who is this person and why would he do that?

William O'Connor said...

Blume, I don't think you can pin what happened to Mr. Kadri solely on the actions of one person, but clearly Mr. Lindner was not a fan of our former superintendent. If you have never witnessed one of his tirades before, you can search YouTube and find video clips like this one (paste the URL into a web browser and enter):

He is a retired Neshaminy teacher, and he is a political activist.

This is an example of why you must carefully research who you vote for in school board elections. You've heard that old saying that when you marry someone, you marry their family, too. It's the same way with school board politics. Before you pull that lever, make sure you know who may be pulling your candidate's strings behind the scenes.

William O'Connor said...

The following comment submitted by JS was edited for content

The three Board members most vocally against Mr. Kadri all were backed by Mr. Lindner (and his political party). Were they the only ones, no, but they were the ones who conveniently had the most vocal backing. (Search for Neshaminy School Board on Youtube and you'll get to see Mr. Lindner in action, complete with planted support in the audience.)

I know that no one gets preferential treatment for positions, but I again would like to remind the Board to pay attention when new positions come up.

Sorry Mr. O'Connor I know this topic was about spending, but even the mention of this political figure gets me all fired up.

Neshaminy Frogger said...

There must be other funding sources available to the district besides taxes and government funding that might help out. I heard that Tawanka is slated to be leased to the BCIU this coming school year which will raise money for the district. What is to be done with Neshaminy Middle School in terms of lease or sale? Might that be another source of revenue for the district? Or perhaps schools could enlist community sponsors for school programs or a particular athletic team? If schools can recruit (for lack of a better word) sponsors, might they be more likely to trim budgets and compete for available funding?

In terms of cutting funding to extra-curriculars, we must tread lightly here and remember that not all extra curriculars are athletic related. Extracurricular activities also include things like before and after school tutoring, keeping the libraries and computer rooms open after school so that kids without computers at home have access, etc. A good number of students in Neshaminy are on the Free and Reduced lunch program meaning that, if the district instituted pay to play to cover all extra curriculars, they would lack the means to participate in any extra-curricular activities, denying them equal access to school functions based soley on economics. I worry that the students that have the least access to resources will be hurt most by cutting extra-curricular activity budgets.

In the end, no matter what else happens, every action that the board and the teachers' union take MUST be in the best interest of all of the students, or why else are they there?

Wing Man said...

If you don't put political commentary on your blog, how are we supposed to know who is pulling strings? I want to make an informed vote for school board in November.

William O'Connor said...

Wing Man, I try not to get this blog too political simply because the average reader is subjected to politics in so many places, and I'd rather keep this as a resource for them to stay on top of Neshaminy issues. That doesn't mean I don't have opinions on such matters, and you are always welcome to contact me via email if you want to discuss political issues in greater detail.

William O'Connor said...

The following comment from JS was inadvertently deleted, and is now being posted as originally submitted.

Wing Man, it's not that Mr. O'Connor doesn't put political comments on the blog. He wants to avoid speculation and rumor, which is what was edited out from my comment.

I personally don't think what I had written is a rumor, but it is his right to keep this blog constructive and not spread misinformation. With that being said I will continue to voice opinions as situations come up and hopefully it can be helpful in some way before it's too late.