September 26, 2015
On Monday, September 28, the Avon Grove School Board will be in court defending their refusal to release their budget projections to taxpayers, despite having been ordered to do so by the state of Pennsylvania. The board has been spending taxpayer money for 3 lawyers for over 9 months to keep the taxpayers from knowing how much taxpayer money they have committed to spend in the school budget.
This coming Monday afternoon, lawyers for the board will be explaining to a judge why the board should not comply with an order to make budget information available to the public. The Pennsylvania Department of Open Records had previously ordered the AGSD to release information under Pennsylvania's Open Records law. The board's lawyers had filed an appeal and the matter is now in the Court of Common Pleas, where a hearing is scheduled for this Monday. If successful, this will allow a local woman to finally get budget data after 9 months of legal wrangling with the board, who employed 3 different lawyers to keep their budget projections secret.
In December 2014, after the teachers' contract had been ratified, AGSD Superintendent Marchese announced that teachers would receive "overall salary increases of 2.7 percent during the length of the contract." Outside observers questioned this, and estimated that teacher salaries would actually increase by approximately 14% for the 3-year life of the contract. A woman in Landenberg asked the board for the budget data to find out for herself what the overall increase would be. After reviewing her request, the school district told her the budget data did not exist!
Then she filed a formal "Open Records" request with the board. After considering her request for 30 days, the school district told her the information was "confidential".
Then she filed a complaint with the PA department of Open Records. They agreed with her and on April 25 ordered the school board to disclose the data. On June 2, the school board's lawyers appealed the order to the courts.
On Monday, after waiting in vain for more than 9 months for the information, taxpayers will have their day in court. The Court of Common Pleas will hear Ms Jamie Cox (representing herself) ask for the budget documents. The school Board's lawyers will try to explain why the information should continue to be kept from the public.
Teacher contracts ARE confidential... but only while they are being negotiated. This contract is in full force, and is therefore public information. Taxpayers have a legal right to know what the board has obligated the taxpayers to spend. What could the board be hiding? As of right now, only your school board knows for sure-- and they're not talking!
Ask your school director why the board refuses to make the budget information public.