Friday, April 17, 2009

Something for everyone to hate

If you've been living under a rock and don't know what kind of financial bind Neshaminy is in, this morning's Courier Times article gives you a good summary of where we are - declining revenues, $14 million budget gap, pending changes/cuts to educational programs.

Our Business Manager, Joe Paradise, has locked himself in a room the past couple of weeks as he feverishly tries to find ways of trimming the budget, and we're expecting to see a semi-final recommendation from him at our next meeting on Tuesday, April 28th. It will then be up to the Board to accept or reject his recommendations as we move towards the June meeting where the final budget is to be ratified. Mr. Paradise's words at this week's public meeting serve as a warning of what is ahead . . . "There will be something for everyone to hate in this budget."

This is going to be one of those meetings you should not miss, and I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is for YOU to be there IN PERSON. This is more than a meeting about budget gaps and Act 1 limits - this meeting is really about the future of Neshaminy's children, and they deserve your support.


KClarinet said...

Just to understand the procedure -

Will Mr. Paradise's recommendations be discussed at the April 28 meeting or will a printed presentation simply be given to the Board members for future discussion?

If the Board expects to discuss the recommendations on April 28, will the members get them in advance of that date to be able to read over and think about them ahead of time. If so, can the public get access to the recommendations ahead of time as well?

Or will Mr. Paradise read the entire recommendation publicly at the April 28 meeting? If that's the procedure, will there be adequate time for public comment after the reading? Will votes be taken the same night or will they be called at the next meeting?

Ivy League said...

Thanks for the laugh--and it's not at your expense.

I am laughing because you and I both know what will/won't happen.

The real decisions happen behind closed doors; we, the taxpayers are led to believe we have a "voice".

The board will do whatever it wants. There are no proactive answers from the board EVER on any forum.

Questions and requests are dodged; people are reminded that it's just public comment.

Inaccuracies and misrepresentations are reported as fact and are never clarified.

I need some of JS's valium.

William O'Connor said...

A little cynical for a Saturday morning, Ivy League, aren't you. I take it you've never been to a committee meeting or one of our strategic planning sessions, have you? There are many meetings where we do have frank, open discussions where it's less formal than a board meeting. These committee sessions are open to the public, and public feedback often help to drive recommendations that find their way back to the full board. Maybe these forums aren't what you would prefer or expect, but they do exist.

William O'Connor said...

KClarinet - I assume we will be presented that evening with the recommendations so we won't have had time to review them before the public meeting, so there probably won't be an in depth discussion of the specifics. I do expect we will be given an overview of the recommendations at the public meeting so at least you know which areas will be involved. I will try to get some more clarification of what will transpire at the next public meeting and report back to you.

srodos said...

Here is a way to painlessly cut the budget in a manner that is being tried by many nearby school districts.
Take back classes from the Bucks I.U. The school district can provide the same classes at much less cost. Investigate the reasoning of the other districts, it will make sense and save dollars.

Neshaminy Frogger said...

srodos great idea! How about another to consider?
As the recession drags on, news reports abound about teachers and schools that are sponsored by local businesses. Some teachers have sold tag lines on tests and quizzes where parents pay a small fee to have a good luck note on a quiz - the money then goes to off setting the cost of copies, paper, etc. I have also hear of local business donating money to fund a sports team in exchange for a patch or emblem to be placed on the teams' uniforms. There is money out there for the taking ... can the schools take advantage??? It might allow them to keep the programs that the board may cut to save money where they can...

Pianomom said...

Since you do speak in favor of the students Mr. Rodos, I won't come down too hard on your suggestion, but you obviously do not understand the plight of special needs students. The district does educate many of its own special needs students, but they do not have the expertise, personnel or resources to accommodate the unique or more severe cases. Taking these students back into the district just to save a few bucks may satisfy the taxpayers, but it will only hurt the very students you want to help.

Ivy League said...

Actually William,

I think it's the least cynical thing I've written.

Newbie said...

I started coming to this blog because it was more informative than the courier blog and because readers were more civil. It has changed. Why are some readers so intent on trying convince each other to change their minds through insults and sarcasm? Some of these readers are very smart and have knowldege of the district that I don't have, but I stop paying attention because they are more interested in being right than they are of sharing ideas in a respectful manner. Ivy League and ACS - you two will never agree. You are predisposed to different philosophies. I understand that. Most readers on this blog understand that. Why can't you two get it?

JS said...

Though I often go against Ivy, I do agree that there is a bit of a "sham" feeling concerning the actual Board Meetings (the ones we get to see televised).

I agree that a lot of work takes place in the committee meetings and it is a different atmosphere (I have been to a select few, that should should rattle Mr. O'Connor's brain as he tries to think who I might be). The problem is that there are obviously still gaps in what the public can and can not openly participate in.

I'm going to use the Administrator's contract as an example because it is most recent history. I realize it can not be changed, but I hope changes in process can be made in the future.

At the March 24th meeting a point blank question was asked about whether there was any other information pertaining to the offered Administrator's contract than what was posted on the web site. The Board was advised to say "no comment". Between that March 24th meeting and the April 14th meeting, how was the public supposed to "comment" and "voice their opinion" with out all the facts? The public asked and the Board refused to answer.

Then prior to the vote on the contract there again was NO mention of any items not already disseminated to the public. Up until the 2 hour point in the meeting (channel 43 only shows that much of the rebroadcasts, a separate issue that needs to be addressed) again no mention or admitting of any details not already told to the public was mentioned. I personally like how Mr. Webb only mentioned the "highlights".

Now that the Board has voted the public is now allowed to know everything. Honestly that's not how things should work. The constituents of an elected body should not be made aware of details ONLY after they are tied to them.

I understand the reason the Board put the clause in the Administrator's Contract, but the public still deserved to know.

That doesn't change the outcome, but hopefully you or any other Board members who come across this blog will look to not pull the same maneuver with the next issue.

With that being said, I would like anyone who can make the meeting on the 24th, and gets a chance to comment, ask directly about the Administrator's Contract having a "me too" clause. I would really find it enlightening to see how the public would react to the Board officially commenting on this item (Again if it happened at the end of the last meeting I'm sorry, it doesn't get aired on replays).

I feel it is only appropriate the public be officially aware of that clause on the same night that Mr. Paradise will be submitting a new budget with countless program cuts.

And if we ever do have that "meeting" I could relay countless ways that this district wastes money on a daily basis simply because of lack of oversight and short sighted ambitions.

One item to request when this construction project is over and "on time" would be how much additional "over-time" cost did the District pick up the tab for to ensure it did happen "on-time".

KClarinet said...

And how much detail and fix-up of construction goofs is being done by in-house Neshaminy Facilities and Engineering workers so we won't have to wait for the sub-contractors to come back and do the work themselves?

JS said...

KC, I can't tell if you are agreeing with me or not. I do know that there are still lockers to be installed (by Neshaminy employees) and painting to be done (by Neshaminy employees) repairs of brand new furniture (done by Neshaminy employees) and countless other items.

"On time and On Budget" is a complete misnomer in this case. I give you a prime example of what this construction project has been like.

Say you go looking to buy a car. You are going to spend $50,000 dollars. You plan on getting a BMW or Mercedes. In the end you still spend $50,000 but you only end up coming home with a Kia. Oh but the kicker is that you tell everyone that "yeah I stayed on my $50,000 budget".

Accountability has to be taken. The contractors are getting away with sloppy and quick work just to make sure this project finishes on time. Ask how many times the sprinkler system has leaked, how often the hot water stops working, how many places didn't get painted correctly, insulation missing, old drafty windows kept because they ran out of money to replace them as planned. Yeah "on time and on budget".

KClarinet said...

For the record, I was supporting and trying to add to your point. :-)

JS said...

Update, that said sprinkler system had a malfunction today prompting a building evacuation. Yeah, we sure are getting what we paid for.

William O'Connor said...

KClarinet - Regarding Tuesday's public meeting (4/28, 8pm), here is what I understand will happen . . . Joe Paradise will give a fairly detailed presentation to the public of what programs or activities are under consideration for change (i.e. reductions or cuts). The board won't really be able to comment much about it or answer questions because we will have received his recommendations the same evening.

I assume Ms. Canelli will have a comprehensive update in Wednesday's Courier, and of course the meeting replay should hit the Neshaminy channel later in the week. I'll also post the details on this blog. That should give the public sufficient opportunity to review the proposed budget prior to our next board meeting on May 5th when they can come to voice their questions, comments, concerns, etc.

I'm seriously considering taking a vacation day from work next Wednesday so that I can give this proposal my immediate, undivided attention.

JS said...

I know the meeting is going to be very well attended tonight. As someone who will not be able to make it I do ask one thing Mr. O'Connor.

The last meeting that had overflow they moved to the Auditorium. In doing so it eliminated the meeting from being shown on TV. Please push for the meeting to still be taped so it can be put on TV later. Run a live feed to a monitor in the auditorium for overflow, or do a makeshift taping (we'll understand if the quality isn't what we normally get).

I don't feel it is truly appropriate if because extra people show up to the meetings that it is moved to a location that then eliminates the remaining public from having the chance to experience it.

I appreciate you putting the info here, but sadly not everyone in the district visits your blog. The public expects the meetings shown and the Board should make every effort to have that done.

Ok, I'm getting of my soapbox again. Surprise it's still in one piece.

William O'Connor said...

JS, apparently the auditorium is already booked tonight for another event, so unfortunately we will have no other place to spill into. I think we have already secured the auditorium for our next meeting (May 5th) if needed. My understanding is that as long as we can plan for it in the auditorium, it can be taped. I'll verify that for you.