Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sharpsville School Board Refuse to Reopen Budget

Despite Governor Ed Rendell's sweetheart re-election offer to school districts, the Sharpsville school board chose not to use that money to give taxpayers relief. The Greenville school board has been the only local board to do so.

According to The Herald (Sharon, PA):
The district’s state subsidy was $58,000 more than expected, and School Director Gerard Hanley said at last week’s work session that he wanted to see the extra money go back to the taxpayers.

Hanley made a motion at Monday’s meeting to re-open the 2006-2007 district budget to refund one mill of a two-mill tax hike. Each mill of taxes brings in about $60,000.

But Hanley was the only board member who voted to do so.
Kudos to Hanley for standing up for taxpayers!
“I’d love to give the people back the money,” said board member Burt DeVries after Monday’s meeting. “It just seemed like an impossible task.”

At the work session, district business manager Jaime Roberts gave the board several reasons the tax reduction was not feasible, including several items not budgeted for.

She mentioned a $37,000 decrease in earned income tax revenue to the district, capital improvements needed beyond a recent $500,000 loan and a 20-percent spike in electricity costs. She also said it would cost another $3,200 to mail out tax cards again.
Somehow I get the feeling that the residents wouldn't mind paying the postage bill to get a tax break....
Following Monday’s meeting, Hanley said he understood that the district did not know about the additional dollars until after their budget passed.

At that point, he said, there was still time to adjust the tax rate before sending out bills, which were mailed the first week of August. But he said he did not find out about the increased subsidy until several weeks after administrators did.
So, the administration failed to notify the school board that there were additional funds? Also, they could have reopened the budget a lot earlier, and saved that $3200 in postage?

Sounds like the voters in Sharpsville need to bring a little pressure upon their board members to reopen the contracts of the administrators.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Grove City School Board to Fleece Residents for $2 Million for Untimely Field Upgrade

The Grove City Area School Board voted to upgrade tried-and-true Forker field during the Monday night meeting. The $2 million renovation will replace the football field and cinder track with artificial surfaces.

No word yet on how the district intends on paying for the changes, but given the "track" record of this board, tax increases are all but guaranteed.

Although many would like to see new facilities, the money simply isn't available. Besides, many track runners were born on the cinder track and the football team went to the state finals a couple seasons ago, playing on the grass surface. Isn't football supposed to be on grass, anyway?

This desire to upgrade the facility now comes on the heels of the administration and board complaining that there isn't enough state money in the budget, despite huge increases from Governor Rendell.

Recently, the board and administration cut programs at the middle school to direct money to administrative pay increases.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lenny's Letter Debunked

Let's take some time to dig into the letter to the editor sent in by Grove City School Board member Leonard Clarke...

Point One: Criticizing the Critics - dealt with in the previous post. Case closed.

Point Two: Denegrating the School Board - Clarke thinks the critics are out the denegrate the successes of the school board. Sorry, but they have done that themselves. What are the successes? Take your time...think of something. Ultimately, what comes to mind? Tax hikes, big pay raises to administrators, hostility to critics.... Don't forget the $30 million in new spending that is comming! The teachers have been the success story - shame on the board for trying to take the credit.

Point Three: Students First - board member Bob Montgomery angrily asked then-candidate Jason Reeher if he would dare cut programs to help the budget. Then Montgomery, Clarke, and the rest of the board raised taxes AND cut programs. They didn't just eliminate "Yoga for Beginners" either - they eliminated crucial programs. Gotta pay for those pay raises somehow.

Point Four: Quality, Stable and Progressive Education Plan Needed - Odd that the quality programs from the last 100 years aren't good enough. Somehow, Clarke is trying to peg the board's problems on the teachers, students, and parents here. The same lessons that taught students for the last 100 years still hold relevance. Sure, some things have changed, but basic teaching principles haven't - and GC teachers are doing a fine job. Unfortunately, the board isn't.

Point Five: Waaaah! The State isn't Paying Us Enough! - It's an election year, and Governor Ed Rendell has just dolled out big money to school districts so they wouldn't have to raise taxes. The Grove City school board is raising taxes anyway. What a surprise! Let me guess...it's for the children.

Point Five: Using Seniors as Political Pawns - this is the one point that really irks me, and it proves that Clarke and his ilk are waaaaaaay out of touch. Us "watchdogs" have been saying for years that increased property taxes hurt those on fixed incomes and those with low wages (actually, they hurt everyone). This is a FACT. Just because Clarke has been in academia all his life and probably has a huge pension, doesn't mean that someone making $20,000 per year isn't affected. I have a relative who has lost his house by continually raised property taxes. If Clarke wants to close his eyes, plug his ears, and sing "la-la-la I can't hear you!" then that is his perogative. He has money. He isn't hit hard by his tax increases. He doesn't think anyone else is, either. Clarke is flat-out wrong. Again. If our commonwealth has the second amount of seniors in the country, quit taxing them senseless!

Point Six: Slots aren't the Way to School Money - congrats, Mr. Clarke, you guys got one right. Shooting down Act 72 was the right thing to do. Of course, you'll remember that I stood up and urged the school to vote that down, too.

Point Seven: School District Equal to Business - I can't believe I have to debunk this one again, but they must love it over there at the school board. They love to refer to Superintendent Robert Post as a CEO since he is over a $27 million budget and 300 employees. First of all, a school is non-profit. If a non-profit business were run the way the school is, they'd be out of business. If a non-profit wants money, they have to do fund raising. They have to ask the public for money. The school board (and administration) just takes money from the citizens without asking. A for-profit business couldn't work this way, either. They have to produce a good, market it, then sell it. If they want more money, they have to produce more goods. What has the school board sold you lately? If a business can't earn more money, they have to cut costs. When has the school board cut costs? In the real world, a CEO tells the employees, "sorry, we don't have any money this year, so no raises or extra expenditures."

Point Eight: Poor Post is Underpaid - who really cares what other administrators make across the state? This school board continually jumps off the bridge just because others do it. Maybe all of the other superintendents are overpaid! The school board never considers that one.... I would be willing to bet our district could find a superintendent for $80,000 per year - and he would love his job, love the students, and love the staff just as much. Giving Post $110,000 per year doesn't make him the best.

Point Nine: Post Keeps Saying, "I Don't Need a Raise" - yet the school board gives him huge raises, anyway. Post may sound altruistic, but for some reason, I keep missing the news story where he turns down the pay increase. That is an option, you know. Hey, school board - if you are looking for ways to cut costs, don't give a pay raise to a man who says he doesn't want one! Think of how many computers his annual raise would buy...wow.

Point Ten: I'm Proud to Raise Your Taxes - Clarke ends his letter by voicing his pride to serve on the school board. Good for him - he should be proud of community service. Let's just see if he's honest about it. Put that in your campaign flyer, Mr. Clarke: "I'm proud of raising your taxes. Someone who makes $110,000 per year needed it more than you. Don't forget the administrators who make $70,000...$80,000...even $90,000 per year. After all, you make enough money - I know this because I make enough and so do my friends. If you liked the last several tax hikes, wait until we drain $30 million from you for two unnecessary building projects. You'll feel proud, too! By the way...don't criticize me."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Grove City School Board to Citizens: Don't Question Us!

School Board member Lenny Clarke felt compelled to criticize school board critics (a bit hypocritical, eh?) in the Grove City Allied News and Slippery Rock/Grove City Eagle.

The essay wandered over different topics and had several flaws. I'll go over those flaws at a later time.

Clarke's basic proposition was that there is a problem with "self-proclaimed watchdogs" in the community. As a public official, he should expect that citizens are going to watch his actions. He should welcome it - and listen to it. After all, citizens (and voters) have the right to watch over elected officials. His assertion that citizens should mind their own business is insulting.

- A school board that raises taxes every year needs watchdogs.
- A school board that cuts curricula needs watchdogs.
- A school board that seeks to restrict free speech of citizens needs watchdogs.
- A school board that gives outlandish raises to administrators every year needs watchdogs.
- A school board that wants to spend $30 million on unnecessary building projects needs watchdogs.
- A school board that is hostile to any citizen that dares question them...you get it.

Too bad this school board doesn't.