Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The bottom line on next year's budget

Please excuse the sketchy update this morning. Lots of meetings at work today and I have about 10 minutes to write this . . .

The proposed final budget, to be voted on at the May 12th meeting, calls for an average $146 tax increase (3.6%) which is under the Act 1 limit of 4.1%. The anticipated tax reduction from State Gaming Relief is $211 per qualifying home. This means that the average homeowner will see a net reduction in their property taxes of $65. Overall good news, but not perfect.

As Mr. Paradise warned us previously, there is something for everyone to hate in this budget . . .
· Taxpayers – Despite a net reduction in property taxes, some won’t be satisfied until the school budget is completely flat
· Employees – Upwards of 65 staff members will lose their jobs, mostly a result of the 9th grade consolidation into the high school
· Students/Parents – Still up for consideration is a participation fee for extracurricular activities. One proposal is for a flat $65 fee per activity; other suggestions include a tier system of fees based on relative costs to maintain an activity. There is also the possibility that 8th grade foreign languages may be cut for at least one year.

The Participation Fee issue is a real brainer because there doesn’t appear to be a truly equitable way to implement it. As some parents pointed out last night, many of the booster organizations supporting these activities already charge a fee. In the case of music activities, participants already bear the burden of paying for their own musical instruments as opposed to other activities where resources are provided to the students. Board Prez Rich Webb noted that he has seen such participation fees implemented outside of Nehaminy and it didn’t go very well, so he suggested to Paradise that we may have to find the $250,000 revenue generated by the proposed fees somewhere else.

Food Services is asking for permission to raise lunch prices by an average of 20 cents. Several board members asked for additional information so they could better assess the situation.

The vote for the “FINAL” final budget takes place in June.

Here is the Courier Times recap of last night's Board meeting.


srodos said...

I can offer you the suggestion of one of the full day kindergarten proposals which would save the district
$144,000. The full proposal can be found in the back of the warehouse pictured at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie

Rebecca said...

As I recall from a board educational meeting several months ago the full day kindergarten proposals did not consider the cost of having to keep a building open that we can otherwise close due to declining enrollment. In other words we would have to spend millions to save $144,000. It's that kind of mathematical thinking that led Pennsbury into adding full day K only to cut the program a couple years later.

I am actually a supporter of full day K because of the educational value and the convenience it provides to working parents, but let's not kid ourselves over the cost of having it.

srodos said...

Pennsbury closed their full day kindergarten for different reasons. First they had too many complaints from residents because it was offered to the poorer schools (Title 1)and not to the more wealthy ones and also because they have a lack of space in many of their elementary schools. Lack of space is not a problem in Neshaminy. Lack of students is a problem. Full day kindergarten will fill schools and make the district a more desirable place to raise children thus enhancing the market value of everyone's home.

Blume said...

The Board should give up on the pay to play fee. It will cause more trouble and controversy than the $250,000 revenue is worth. We have good extra curricular programs in the district, and they keep the kids involved in something good instead of having them roaming the streets.

KClarinet said...

Lack of space is not a problem in Neshaminy. Lack of students is a problem.In some Neshaminy elementary schools, this is true only if you load classes up to max, eliminate rooms for specials, eliminate all storage space so it can be used for instruction, and don't close any more buildings. If there are now underused buildings (McKissick says there are), there are also some that are stuffed to the gills.

finance-101 said...

The pay to play fee is a classic example of penny wise, dollar foolish, which we are very accustomed to at Neshaminy.

Great line by R. Webb after the board was unfairly attacked by a financial person during public comment.
Webb reminded us that this is not a public company, we are dealing with kids. Good point.

Also, we often forget that it is important how we are viewed by the outside world. Implementing this fee creates endless combinations of headaches along with negative and controversial press. The outside world will be watching this.

Every financial decision we make has to be analyzed as to whether it saves us money or costs us money (our real estate). So cut, cut, cut ,cut..... 100% of the time is not a good financial decision.

Do we want to save $10 in taxes a year for play to play and and have the outside world watch this ?
No. Our real estate has had enough negative news.

JS said...

Simple, cut one of the soon to be 8 administrators at the High School. Pay and benefits would total a number somewhere in the $150,000 range. All you would have left is $100,000 gap.

You could possibly cut further because even 7 administrators seems a bit much. I'd also like to point out that the current Principal position (I'm referring to the actual duties, not the person in the position, so hear me out Mr. O'Connor) seems to be a bit excessive. We have seperate administrators for each grade, co-curricular, and scheduling. Really besides being a figure head and pencil pusher, what is the Prinicpal position really doing? Again this has nothing to do with the person currently Principal, just the lack of apparent tasks for increased pay.

I think there are plenty of areas that we have let the status quo of business as usual make it seem like certain positions (teachers and support staff as well) are needed. I guarantee you that there are employees who aren't needed because if others would actually do their job you wouldn't need an extra person to catch up the slack.

Neshaminy Frogger said...

The district spent $8.8 million more than they had each year for the last two years, in what Mr. Paradise states (in the APril 28th budget memo) is the largest overexpediture in the district's history? The tax revue will fall $2 million short this year and another $2 million next year. He plans on fixing the situation with this caveat, "most important for everyone to realize is that it WILL NOT BE BUSINESS AS USUAL next year in Neshaminy. The entire staff, and community, must understand that in the 2009‐10 school year, complicated by the
harsh economic decline, and the severe budget crisis facing the district, there will be minimal dollars to do things other than that which is legally required."

- Certain programs will be altered to better and more efficiently to provide students with services needed today
- all per pupil allocations in the district will be reduced by at least 20%
- reduce at least 27 teaching positions next year as part of the consolidation of the 9th grade up at the high school and are made to all curricular areas in the high school
- reductions of school support staff in numbers yet to be specifically determined
- “Minimal” reductions in areas of Music, Academic Enrichment, Art, Physical Education, Pre‐first, Languages which are not explained or commented upon
- Stop modifying transportation routes to meet individual and communities' needs
- Eliminate mid day bussing for kindegarten students
- Reduce Late Runs for secondary schools, public and private, to ONE per day compromised time (this includes athletics & after school busses)
- "consolidate bus stops at all levels. This will mean that some students will be required to walk further to bus stops however; our transportation network needs to be both safe AND EFFICIENT during these difficult times."
- Institute a pay-to-play fee for sports --> unofficial recomendations have been of $65
- Seriously consider closing an elementary school and perhaps another middle school

Problems with these ideas?
While Mr. Paradise claims that enrollment is projected to drop from 10,000 in 2000 to 8,774 students for next year, he is neglecting to take into account the closing of many private schools due to insucfficient enrollment or because parents are withdrawing their students from private school unable to pay the hefty bills which will inevitably increase the enrollment of neshaminy. Several grades are at max capacity in buildings already, but Mr. Paradise and the district are suggesting cutting staff and increasing class size further? It is irresponsible, educationally unsound, and only hurts the students. The reputation of Neshaminy is already falling throughout the state - in my daughter's student teacher program at Penn State, NONE of the future teachers wanted to come to do their student teaching at Neshaminy! Our reputation for putting the almighty dollar ahead of the students is spreading quickly!

Levittowner said...

I sure hope the district doesn't implement the activity fees. For those of us with several children in the school district..we may not be financially needy..but we will be after all the fees we pay for our active kids!
I'm sure citizens would rather have children active at school than mischevious in the neighborhood.

acs said...

The pay to play idea is a non-starter. It is yet another tax and an even more unfair one. This is PS and it is equal education and extra-curriculars for all. The board needs to find another $250K somewhere and while they are at it $4M more to have a zero tax increase. Did good so far so now get back to work on the rest of the cuts needed. Looks to me like the $10M should have been done 2 years ago but oh I forgot this is an election year what a coincidence.

JS said...

And why didn't Mr. Paradise do all this work cutting down the budget prior to now?

We've had years of apparent fiscal issues and currently the only constant is Mr. Paradise. I don't know the man personally, but currently it only seems that he takes the credit for finding the cuts, but none of the blame for getting to the point of having to make the cuts.

The school board ran Mr. Kadri out, but there is never any talk about shake ups elsewhere in the cabinet. Why is that? I'm not saying people need to go, but just because someone has been here forever doesn't mean they are the best person for the job.

William O'Connor said...

Mr. Paradise has for years encouraged the board to make decisions to limit spending. Ultimately he does what he is instructed to do by the superintendent and the board.

acs said...

Joe Paradise is one of the only voices of reason in this mess. Unfortunately it is board members who have never voted against spending and bigger budgets no matter what that remain the problem. Some are now trying to hitch their wagon to the more fiscally responsible ones as it relates to budget and teachers contract but it will not work because we all know who you are. You have prevented cutting for years and years as Joe has recommended.

Blume said...

Mr. O'Connor, can you tell me how all day kindergarten is supposed to save the district $144,000? Someone wrote an article in the paper that it would save money instead of costing money and that doesn't make sense to me.

William O'Connor said...

Blume, A committee was formed to determine the cost and feasibility of implementing full day kindergarten (FDK) in Neshaminy. The committee, headed by our Director of Elem & Secondary Ed, came up with 10 options for the board to consider.

The first option is what you might consider a classic model - FDK as needed in each school building with no changes to any other programs such as pre-first (which is different than FDK). This was referred to as Option A, and it would require additional teachers, space and resources at an annual cost of $1.3 million.

As the options in this report progressed B to I, there was a combination of reduced FDK classes and/or pre-first classes, and a drop in the cost (but still ZERO profit).

The only option that suggested a savings to the district (Option J) limited FDK to one class per building along with elimination of all pre-first classes. While this option could save the district $144k due to reduced staffing, there would not be enough program capacity to handle all the parents who might want to participate in FDK and they would be stuck with half day K any way. And I consider this option harmful as it would eliminate pre-first which is important to those young students who lack some of the skills to move into first grade.

Two other things worth noting. Option J was not recommended by the committee who developed the report. Secondly, none of these options consider the financial impact of forcing us to keep open a building we may otherwise be able to close. Enrollment projections indicate we can close an elementary and/or another middle school, which would save the district (and taxpayers) millions each year. So even in the case of Option J, we may have to spend over $1 million in order to save $144k.

Blume said...

Thank you William. I hope its ok I used some of your explanation in my comment on the bcct blog. I should have asked you before I printed it. Sorry.