June 15, 2016
On June 9, the school board voted to approve the budget for 2016-17 which includes a 3.1% tax increase and 15 new positions. The board also approved the implementation of full day kindergarten (FDK) for the 2017-18 school year which is expected to cost $2 million in the first year since it requires the addition of modular classrooms at Penn London Elementary to create space and additional teachers to accommodate the new program.
Eight of the nine school board members were present with Pattie Lyons absent (who voted against FDK for 2016-17 earlier this year). All but Charles Beatty voted for the new budget and FDK. Mr. Beatty read a prepared statement before the vote explaining his decision which can be viewed on his Facebook page here. A copy is also included below.
After careful consideration of all the information available for the board to review I want to state that I will be voting NO on the budget proposal and FDK here tonight.
Without a comprehensive financial forecast we do not and cannot know how year over year growth in the budget will affect the future sustainability of Avon Grove. While there have been savings achieved by the efforts of the Administration along with the reduction in our debt level, all those savings and more have been replaced by new spending.
Over the last 2 years and now again this year we have been increasing the budgets an average of 4 million dollars annually. From 2013 to 2016 we have gone from a 76 million dollar budget to an 88 million dollar budget here tonight.
Even with tax increases up to the Act 1 limit we are exceeding revenue and consuming fund balance reserves to take on a higher spending levels that will continue while reserves are being depleted.
If we approve all day kindergarten tonight I foresee similar increases in future spending that continues to outpace our income.
Without a comprehensive financial forecast I believe we are flying blind and thus neglecting our fiduciary responsibility given to us by the Avon Grove community.
AGSD School Director
A statement from the Administration on the approval of full day kindergarten was posted on June 10.
5 Year Projection Approved
Mr. Beatty has been requesting that the board approve the development of a comprehensive 5 year projection since last year so it could be used as one of the tools to evaluate the budget which was approved Thursday. Until recently the Board and Superintendent have resisted this request declining to consider or investigate further. Only now that this budget was passed have they agreed to develop something. Charles Beatty made a motion calling for a 5 year rolling projection that showed expenses, revenue, taxes, fund balance that would be updated periodically as part of the budget development process starting in September 2016. Brian Gaerity amended the motion to “The board directs the Administration to develop a 5 year projection”, eliminating any details about what would be projected, when it might be started or if it would be periodically revisited. Nonetheless the board did unanimously vote to approve the amended motion. This small victory can be credited to the efforts of Mr. Beatty and the community members who made the effort to contact their elected representatives to request that they show the community where they are leading us financially. The Administration has issued a statement on the decision to develop a projection and the budget approval on June 13. The news statements are available here.
The June 9 meeting was the last meeting until the board adjourns for the summer. They will return in August with the first official meeting being a Board Retreat on August 11 at 6:30 at AGIS. This meeting is open to the public.
Your tax bill will arrive in July which will include the 3.1% tax increase approved by 7 out of 9 of your elected school board members (Lyons was absent). This is the 6th tax increase in the last 7 years. You will need to decide if this trend of increasing taxes is sustainable for your family and the Avon Grove community.