Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending

                                                             www.AvonGroveTaxpayers.org


        Citizens, Parents, and Schools working together to bring Avon Grove into the 21st Century!

November 26, 2016

November Highlights

Facilities Meeting - November  7

The Facilities Committee met on Monday, November 7th.  It was surprising to find out the relatively small amount of money that was invested in the maintenance of school buildings in the 2015/2016 school year.  Out of the $2.1 million budgeted and approved by the Board for execution, only $713,000 was spent (33%).


Facility 2015/2016
Budgeted Amount($)
Actual Amount Spent($)
Difference ($)
AGHS
203,700
80,981
122,809
AGIS
419,000
245,898
173,102
FSEMS
132,500
66,448
66,052
PLE
968,500
245,423
723,077
DO
447,000
74,000
362,500
Total
2,170,700
712,660
1,447,540


The same practice seems to be continuing in 2016/2017 school year, though the spending pattern could change as the school year progresses.  A little more than $2 million has been budgeted for 2016/2017 school year.  To date, $120,000 has been spent (6%).  Of particular note was a discussion regarding the recoating of the AGHS roof ($875,000).  In the spring of 2016, the School Board agreed to do major repairs to the high school roof – a roof that has been leaking for years.  The school board members on the Facilities Committee were surprised that the roof had not been fixed over the summer of 2016 and will not be fixed until the summer of 2017 at the earliest.  Instead a roof survey will be presented to the School Board in January 2017.  PLE building water distribution piping is failing for some time due to corrosive effects from the water supply and fixing leaks has been an ongoing effort.  Additional repairs are planned for the holiday period.  Eventually, the entire system will have to be replaced with plastic piping system.  A number of other maintenance and compliance items have been noted as deferred to launch the new full day kindergarten program instead.

Facility2016/2017
Budgeted Amount($)
Actual Amount Spent($)
Difference ($)
AGHS
1,085,000
29,000
1,056,000
AGIS
110,000
0
110,000
FSEMS
230,000
0
230,000
PLE
270,000
56,000
214,000
DO
395,000
35,000
360,000
Total
2,090,000
120,000
1,970,000


Handouts are not shared with the public attending these meetings which makes it difficult to follow the conversation.  This practice should be changed to allow more involvement of the public in the discussion of the committee members.

The document discussed at this meeting was eventually posted in Board Docs once it was deemed suitable for public release.

Class Pride Day was discussed.   $3562 was spent to deal with the disruption and damage resulting from this activity.  Additional security needed to be hired as well as double duty from the custodial staff.  There was $2000 in damages from paint getting on the walls and buses.  It is hard to understand why destruction of school property by students is tolerated at this event. 

A digital school sign for RT 796/896 located by AGIS and PLE was discussed at the meeting.   The overall cost of the sign is $30,000 with $12,000 requested from the School Board.  The facility group requested a breakdown of the costs to be discussed at an upcoming meeting for their approval.

An update on the modular classrooms for PLE was presented.  The plan for the modular classrooms has been presented to the Township Planning Committee.  The next step will be to present the proposal to the Board of Supervisors.

Finance Meeting - November 15

The Finance Committee met on Tuesday November 15th.  The committee heard a presentation of the annual audit report by an external auditing company.  There were no significant concerns identified during the presentation though the audit report itself is not expected to be available to the public until December.  The committee also heard the Business Manager recommend that the Board pursue an Act I opt out resolution.  This recommendation was also made at the Oct. 18 Finance Committee meeting.  This decision means that the school district does not intend to apply for an exception to go over the Act I tax increase limit for the 2017-18 budget.  The adjusted Act I index for the Avon Grove School District is 3.3% and without an exception taxes can be only increased up to that point.  This same decision to opt out was made in each of the past 3 years when taxes were raised to just 0.1% below the limit.​

Board Meeting - November 17

For this meeting of the Avon Grove Board of Directors three of the Board Members were absent (Wood, Farina & Lisi did not attend).

The meeting started with a presentation on the 1 to 1 Initiative and the use of Google Chrome books at the middles school which was started this year.   Currently 83% of the students take home their Chrome Books on a daily basis.  There is a $50 Tech Fee charged per student to use the Chrome Books.  58 families chose to donate funds to help cover this fee for families who might not be able to pay it themselves.  Additionally the cost is prorated for students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches.  Three students led much of the discussion and were very impressive in how they presented material and fielded questions from the Board.

The agenda of what was covered is available
here.

During the reports by committees it was mentioned that a judge recently ordered the Lower Merion school district to withdrawal a planned 4.4% tax increase while holding large revenue surpluses.  The topic clearly agitated Superintendent Marchese who emphatically stated the case is being appealed, proper procedures were followed and specifically “Lower Merion did nothing wrong”.  More information is available in the following article.

http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/09/01/lower-merion-school-district-forced-to-withdraw-tax-hike/

At the end of the meeting after completing the posted agenda items Board President Bonnie Wolff stated that the Board has reached a tentative agreement with the teacher’s union on new 5 year contract.  The current contract does not expire until June 30, 2017.  This was the first time the board indicated that negotiations had started in a public meeting.  No details of the contract terms involved were indicated or why they decided to enter into a new long term contract at this time.  It may have been desirable to separate contract negotiations from discussions about large expenditures relating to new facilities which will be occurring during 2017.  The Board is expected to vote on the new contract during a special board meeting tentatively scheduled for December 15 at 7 PM in AGIS.  Articles on past Avon Grove contract approvals are linked below.

http://www.chestercounty.com/2014/12/23/56003/avon-grove-finalizes-new-teachers-pact

http://www.dailylocal.com/article/DL/20130316/NEWS01/130319667

Teachers are the most valuable resource the district has and the foundation of the educational process.  They adapt to the environment around them with the resources available and continue to be successful.  Far more so than extravagant new facilities or a large team of highly compensated administrative staff, nothing else is possible without retaining and motivating good teachers to educate the students of our community. 


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