May 10, 2016
Two School Board Meetings to Vote
As the school year winds down, the Board only has two official School Board Meetings left where voting can occur. There are a number of Committee meetings and a Committee of the Whole meeting where discussion can take place but official business including voting can only occur at the formal School Board Meetings.
New Budget: 18 New Positions & 3.1% Tax Increase
The Board must approve a final budget for the 2016-2017 school year which will most likely occur at the June 9th meeting. The current Proposed Final Budget has been authorized for advertising. It includes 18 new positions and significant new spending requiring a 3.1% tax increase. The Administration has suggested that all the increased spending is solely due to mandated increases in PSERS obligations (retirement funding) and funding that is directed to the Avon Grove Charter School based on the number of students they educate. In reality, in any budget there are various pressures and obligations. Some are mandated while others are more discretionary. The Board is responsible for making appropriate choices that balance the “must do” with the “would like to have”. This should be done in a way that maintains the effective educational standards that currently exist while protecting the wider community from constant tax increases. The current board has increased taxes for the past two years and the trend will likely continue with the approval of the 2016-2017 budget. Furthermore the Board continues to refuse to direct the Administration to develop a comprehensive 5 year financial projection to show the impact of the new initiatives on long term costs and the corresponding tax increases required to address these costs.
Another Vote on FDK Likely Soon
Similarly, the Administration has been working to address the questions from board members who voted against implementing full day kindergarten (FDK) for 2016-2017. The Administrations’ intent is to start FDK in 2017-2018. Nothing has changed since the previous vote other than more discussion and presentations.
A financial projection has been developed by the Administration attempting to demonstrate that the overall program will be cost neutral. It depends heavily on the assumption that many of the new kindergarten students will choose to attend AGSD for FDK instead of the Avon Grove Charter School. This will allow the funding associated with these students to come to AGSD instead of the Charter school. . The calculation of this reallocated funding is complex and in some aspects questionable. It manages to take credit for enrollment changes across grades K through 12 in the first year of a new program For example, in the first year of implementation where AGCS enrollment is assumed to be reduced by 40 students, the calculation takes credit for 45 students. The financial projection concludes that the nearly $4.7 million in revenue that will be lost by the charter school will be retained by AGSD and can be used for FDK. As we have stated previously this funding is not a credit to the Avon Grove Taxpayer but only appears as credit in the AGSD funding picture. The reality is that the cost of FDK is masked by this movement of money. What this projection does not address is what happens if enrollment at AGCS is not impacted and the cost of this program is not offset substantially. The FDK cost analysis includes capital costs to install temporary modular classroom space for the additional students and $60K to remove them but no mention of what will be done (as well as the costs) to permanently provide space for the students when the modular classrooms are removed. The Superintendent has suggested that additional students can be absorbed into the upper grades with no cost impact by allowing class sizes to grow to a maximum allowed by school policy. These class sizes far surpass the point where he would under different circumstances characterize them as grossly overcapacity.
With a vote potentially coming soon to implement FDK for the start of the 2017 school year, the board will add the costs and additional resources required for FDK into a future that is likely to include a continued trend of increasing taxes, a campaign for new buildings and no corresponding 5 year plan on how to pay for these initiatives. If this concerns you, please contact your school board representative. Ask them to show the public where we are heading financially before approving FDK for 2017-2018 as well as the new spending included in the 2016-2017 budget. Please consider attending the public meetings listed below to ask questions or voice your opinion to the Board members. The committee meetings are the best opportunity for interactive discussion.
5/12 - Committee of the Whole 6:30 PM @ AGIS (FDK is a Board discussion topic on the agenda)
5/17 - Facilities & Finance Committee 6:00 PM @ AGIS (likely budget discussions)
5/26 - School Board Meeting 7:30 PM @ AGIS (potential vote for FDK)
5/31 - Finance Committee Meeting 6:00 PM @ AGIS (likely budget discussions)
6/9 - School Board Meeting 7:30 PM @ AGIS (vote on 2016-2017 budget)