Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 11th Meeting Summary

********Update made to calculation of State Reimbursement below*******

The meeting last night was a long one. If you were there or watched the entire thing on TV today, major kudos to you. Below is a summary of some of the more interesting points taken up last night:

1) Approval of Act 34 Document- There was a lot of discussion about this as it was a first review of the Act 34 documents as required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. I brought up a number of points about clarifying what was in the document. Some of the information regarding costs and financing could have been made much clearer. Additionally, there was a major change to the project when we found out that our reimbursement rate will be around 8% instead of the 15% we had been told it would be for the last few years. What does that difference mean to you? I have asked for our staff to get back to us about the impact it will have. See this link from PDE on how to calculate the reimbursement rate. It goes something like this: First calculate the total project cost, then calculate how much of that project cost is reimbursable by the state, then multiply your annual debt service payment (both principal and interest) by the reimbursable rate calculated above and then multiply that by your aid ratio. Make sense? Basically, we need to first figure out how much of this project is reimbursable by the state before we can figure out why our reimbursement rate went down from the expected amount. One of the design criteria was to maximize state reimbursement and in this case it certainly does not appear to have happened.

2) Policy JKF, Non-School Related Drug and Alcohol Violations- We had a good discussion on this possible change to our policy. It was really an extension of the conversation the Board held at the last Policy Committee meeting a few weeks ago. I have issues with the policy and its ramifications. In my opinion it is an overstepping of our duties as a Board. Our job is to educate students, not to police and punish off-campus actions for which there is already a system of justice in place. Our current policy applies to students who sign a code of conduct that states they will not take drugs or alcohol. A violation of that code of conduct could lead to serious consequences. That current policy is not very clear but it is there. A re-write of this policy to make it more clear would be a route I would be willing to explore. The new proposed policy would impact every student without them signing a code of conduct like we have now. Besides the legal ramifications of this possible change (check out this ACLU lawsuit here) I am reluctant to have the Board take on a role that I strongly believe should belong to parents and law enforcement.

3) Preliminary Budget- The Board got its first glimpse at a possible budget for 2010-2011. Right now we are looking at a 3.41 mill increase for next year. This would be about a 14% increase in property tax. And yes, we still have to float more bonds and incur more increases for PSERS in the coming years. This is not new news to the Board. It is something that I have been talking about since I was elected to the Board. These increases are the reason I have voted against the last two budgets. We have not put ourselves in a good enough position to weather these increases. Unfortunately, as we learn more about the true budget numbers, we are going to have to have very serious discussions about what is important to us as a District and a community.

That's all for now. I'll update the Act 34 information as I find out more.

Thanks for reading.