Pennsbury High School District in Fairless Hills PA held a school board meeting on May 3 2011 to discuss the 2011-2012 Budget Hearing. The meeting began with a salute to the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. There were several board members listed as absent for various business and personal reasons. The was a brief statement given by Mr. Dolnick that began the Budget presentation meeting "Tonight the school board administration and community convene to focus the on the creation of the 11-12 budget with salaries and benefits making up the majority of the Pennsbury Budget it is only appropriate we use our time together this evening to provide you with an update on the status of the negotiations with the Pennsbury education association. While no face to face meetings have been scheduled between the entire school board negotiator team and the entire Pennsbury education negotiators since the suspended April 21 session we will continue to work with the state mediator John Karns to facilitate communications establishing. Clearly aware of school board goal of developing a tax neutral contract with Jeff Soltanic our chief negotiator.
The budget presentation is turned over to Dr. Long who exclaims that the main goal of this evening is to exchange information with the community about the budget that they are preparing for the next fiscal year that begins June 1 2011. "The presentation will focus on the budget processes, where we are at in the budget, the challenges that we are facing, and to sketch out a plan for how we are going to deal with that".
Mrs. Moore the business administrator begins the PowerPoint presentation that restates the reasons and goals for the evening that Dr. Long already addressed. The first slide explains the budget development began in June 2010 and that it is occurring and that the initial budget reflects the existing Board approved curriculum, programs, and services, Additional or new findings that are requested, submitted, and reviewed for consideration. The administration and school board are working together to balance the educational needs of the students with the ability of the community to pay. The main goals for 2011-2012 is to balance the budget, maintain support for the most important educational needs with the limited funds that are available, and to seek and implement the direction of the school board. The deficit amounted to $3,055,000 and though it might seem like a lot to others the board was able to reduce by a half of a percent. The main problem that is faced is the revenue decrease by 8 percent, which has been issue for the past few years. There has been a decline in revenue in every area of the revenue budget in the local, state, and federal areas. "This has been termed by some as a perfect storm but I think it is almost a perfect nightmare because it is very difficult for schools to get through this" expressed Moore.
The expenditure and revenue budgeting options that are being considered are ways to balance the budget. They are not set in stone and are ongoing and require public community opinion. For salaries and wages some of the options are to reduce part-time health aides in private schools, reduced salary budget for retirements, and accepting risk in salary budget. For services offered reducing overtime, and expanding four day work weeks in summer. The supplies, books, and software option include purchasing natural gas and electricity in advance for energy conservation, and revised phone and Internet services. Programs that are considering suspending are middle school lightweight football, ninth grade wrestling and replacing the SAGE program, which is the Senior Adults for Greater Education. The revenue options included reducing state reimbursement for special education and federal stimulus funding. There are also new budget additions for the fiscal school year for three new elementary math specialists, four new special education instructors, and increase in workers compensation expenses. If these options should be incorporated into the budget the new deficit would amount to $1,780,623. For the home owners of the township this means an annual increase for 2011-2012 depending on what municipality you reside in is Falls $45 Lower Makefield $88 Tullytown $39 and Yardley $49 and a district-wide increase of $66.
A public forum was open to all those who attended the meeting who would like to address the board. Harold Cooper Smith from Lower Makefield asked "Do you have an average costs for a student in Pennsbury?" The board answered $11,000 for an average student a $25,00 for a special education student. "It appears to me that you have to find a way to get the union and the teachers to participate in this process I'm not in favor personally of cutting programs when you have an alternative. I don't know how far the board is willing to go to push the envelope so to speak when it comes to the union and the union participating. This is going all over the country you are not unique. There is not enough money to go around for the needs and you have to go to the community who value education very highly. You have to develop a strategy where everyone is involved". He then went on to day that if you are asking me to pay an extra $88 for my grandchild's education I will write the check tomorrow it is that simple because education is very important and you just cant continue to kick the can down the road and not have everyone participate in the new America".
Mike Falcovitz from Falls Township stated that he would have five children in the district by the next three years. He stated his children play football for Morrisville and asked the board if the rule that children who play football in Pennsbury would not be allowed to play in other associations? The board stated that they would look into it because they are not positive, but is not up to the board it falls upon the individual coaches. His second question was "What is the estimated tax revenue from the possible Frankfort hospital expansion in Lower Makefield Township what is the tax revenue that would come to the school district in future years?" The board did not have the numbers but stated that they have no estimate at this time and for budget that was discussed at the meeting it would not be affecting it at all. Rupert Overettes said "I think you people have us at a definite disadvantage for a simple reason. I tried to call today to get copies of this handout so I could get a look at it and it is very hard to come to a meeting at 7:00 and at 7:15 and ask people for comments on it I think the handout should be at least available a day in advance, or be up on the website".
Dolnick stated they wished that more people had attended because they want to hear the community about this budget cuts and hope more people attend the last six meetings. The board urge that is anyone had any further to say to call one of the members and hopefully field their questions or ideas on hope to deal with the budget because the community holds a very important role in the schools. With no further comments or questions the Dolnick brought the meeting to a close.
Public input is essential to the budget issues the school board public meeting and hearing will occur on May 12 at 8:00 pm at Fallsington, May 19 for a board budget committee meeting at 5:30 pm at Fallsington, May 19 for a regular meeting at Fallsington, May 31 for a budget hearing at 7:00 pm in Makefield, and a June 9 Agenda Meeting and June 16 regular meeting both held at 7:00 pm at Fallsington. The board will not reach a decision about the budget until June.