Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending


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

Facilities & Finance Meeting*
March 13, 2018

Facilities Committee Meeting
The Facilities Committee includes: Mr Jeff Billig (Chair), Mr John Auerbach, and Mr Herman Engel.  All attended this meeting with the following items being discussed:
Long Range Plan Update – The long range plan to maintain school facilities was presented by Mr Scott Millward, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds. There were no significant changes for the High School from last month’s update.  The administration’s position remains that no major updates to the High School (e.g. roof, HVAC, bathrooms, replacement of auditorium seating, flooring, and lighting) will be progressed until a decision is made by the school board on the building of new facilities and/or renovation of current facilities.  $50,000 continues to be budgeted to deal with on-going leaks in the roof.

Mr Auerbach noted that many of the improvements for the High School listed for 2018-19 ($5.5million: roof replacement, renovate bathrooms, replace lighting, install access control on exterior doors) and 2019-20 long range plan ($6.4milion: upgrade HVAC) are also included in the costs of the facilities options being considered by the school board for renovating the High School.  He questioned if there was overlap/double counting of these costs.  Superintendent Marchese stated that this will be tackled at the next month’s meeting on capital projects.

Upgrading lighting in the parking lot for the Middle School has also been postponed until there is a decision on facilities. Phase 1 of upgrading the interior lighting, the art room, and doors should be completed for Penn London Elementary (PLE) in the 2017-18 school year.  


Weather Related Damage
Glass located in the atrium of Avon Grove Intermediate School (AGI) was pushed out due to the storm.The windows are now boarded and will be repaired.A large tree fell on the baseball field fence.Plans are being made to remove it.Its presence is not impacting the students’ ability to use the field.

Safety and Security Discussion

Superintendent Marchese thanked parents for their input on security issues.There is a greater sensitivity to security at all buildings.Superintendent Marchese has met with a security professional who lives in the school district.The security professional will increase his visibility to the school board over the next months.He will also be involved with training teachers.The school administration will work with the state police.Plans to develop a strategy for mental health and counseling are being progressed.

The following items are being done to improve security:
The gate behind PLE has been modified so it can’t be opened from the outside.
Plans are being considered to modify the “PLE store front” to direct visitors to the main office.
Four playground doors at PLE are being better secured.
Quotes are being obtained to improve security in the AGI Atrium.  A door may be added to guide visitors to the office.
Quotes are being collected to secure the doors behind the gym in the High School.
Ways to reduce visibility into the cafeteria and improve security at the front entrance of the High School are being considered.

PLE Tree House Project– the art teacher at PLE requested permission to progress a kid-friendly project that will build a tree house in Playground D at PLE.  She plans to work with the Technical school and local artists.  The proposed size is 12 ft x 8 ft with a height 7ft.  The art teacher believes the project will help bring imagination back to PLE.  The facilities committee thanked the art teacher for her efforts and agreed that she should progress the project.

Mobile Emergency Response Plan (MERP) – Mr Millward demonstrated to the facilities committee how the MERP app would work if there was an emergency situation.  The information contained in the plan is easy to access by cell phone.  It is also easy to update.  How the plan will be implemented in the Avon Grove School district is still being discussed. 

Public Comment – 2 members of the public commented on security issues at the Avon Grove facilities.  They thanked Superintendent Marchese for listening to their concerns.  Both want the modular classrooms to be replaced as soon as possible.

Finance Committee Meeting
The Finance Committee includes: Mr Herman Engel (Chair), Ms Lynn Weber, and Ms Bonnie Wolff.  All attended this meeting.  The following items were presented at the meeting:

2018-19 budget – expenditure component

Mr Daniel Carsley, the Director of Business Administration and the Chief Financial Officer of the school district, reviewed the projected expenditures for the 2018-19 budget.   The proposed budget for 2018-19 is $3.4 million more than the 2017-18 budget (3.5% increase). Most of the increase is due to increases in salaries (­$695,706), benefits [retirement/healthcare costs] (­$1,505,036), special education (­$624,755), and charter and technical schools tuition/transportation costs (­$628,797).  The budget also includes a transfer of $1,850,000 to capital projects, $960,000 for a budgetary reserve and more money than required for debt service based on the assumption that the debt remains constant even though the school’s debt is actually declining.  Each of these elements effectively accumulates cash reserves in the budget.

 The Educational Technology, Informational Technology, and Special Education budgets were presented at the meeting in significant detail.  There is a lot of progress being made in these areas.

It is important to note that that when Mr Carsley presented the budget at this meeting, the amount of money projected for the revenue portion of the budget had increased compared to the amount presented in the February meeting.  Mr Carsley is now projecting a maximum Act 1 tax increase of 3.1% for the 2018-19 budget.  This level of tax increase is being recommended by the administration even though there is no explicit addition of new debt associated with the major facilities projects. This is in line with Superintendent Marchese’s comments at previous meetings where he stated that his preference is to raise taxes to the highest level allowable by law.  Residents should ask themselves if they will be able to absorb 3-4% increases in school taxes every year for the foreseeable future.  This appears to be the plan of the current school administration.

 Timings for 2018-19 budget approval

April 17 - presentation of the capital plan portion of the budget to the Finance Committee
April 16 – proposed final adoption of the budget at the School Board Meeting
April 26 – proposed final budget adoption – board meeting
May 14 – budget work session during the Finance Committee to deal with outstanding issues
June 5 - budget work session during the Finance Committee to deal with outstanding issues
June 7 – final adoption of the budget

After Prom Fees the finance committee agreed to the proposal. 

Hospital Sale Update– Documents were filed on Friday to challenge whether Tower Hill followed the proper procedure for requesting non-profit status for their newly purchased hospital. The courts have not granted Tower Hill a non-profit status.  Tower Hill is appealing this ruling.  The hope is that this new court challenge will reduce the likelihood of Tower Hill ever receiving non-profit status.  Please note that if Tower Hill is granted non-profit status, revenue from school taxes could be reduced by $540,000 starting tax year 2018-19.  Mr Marchese noted that this issue may be in litigation for several years.  The School Board may want to designate a portion of the fund balance for potential tax reimbursement in case Tower Hill is able to gain non-profit status.  The ruling would be retroactive to the 2018-19 tax year.

*Call to Action
It is important that your position on increasing taxes and building new school facilities is heard. It is critical that community members attend upcoming school board meetings and/or send letters via e-mail to the school board and administration to make their position known. The District Calendar can be found
here.   Watch the district calendar for updates.  Information about the board, including E-mail addresses, can be found

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