Facilities Committee Meeting
Because of a last minute outbreak of cognitive
slippage among the board members, this meeting ran
later than normal. And as usual the most important points
presented at the end. In this case, the most important
point was the Five Year Facility Improvement Plan.
Five Year Facility Improvement Plan
Back in April of last year, the firm
KCBA Architects presented their district facilities study to the
board. They presented a matrix of major construction items as follows:
||Total Project Cost Estimate
|Elkins Park Option A
||Total renovation of existing building with a small addition (no work at administration building)
|Elkins Park Option B
||Construction of a new Elkins Park School (on current school site) and renovation of a portion of the existing building to serve as a district administration building
|Elkins Park Option C1
||Construction of a new building housing a new Elkins Park School and new district administration office on current school site
|Elkins Park Option C2
||Construction of a new building housing a new Elkins Park School on current school site
|Cheltenham HS Option A
||Renovation of the entire school to various degrees; construction of a new pool and locker room complex along the driveway leading to the stadium
|Cheltenham HS Option B
||Renovation of the entire school to various degrees; construction of a new pool and locker room complex to the north of the existing pool
|Cheltenham HS Option C
||New high school constructed south of the existing building along Rices Mill Road
|Cheltenham HS Athletic Complex
||Renovation of the athletic complex at CHS including new track, synthetic fields , site amenities, and stormwater management system
So back to today's meeting: a "Five Year Facility
Plan" was presented that presumably grew out of the
KCBA study; however, the KCBA options that have
been chosen that make up the plan were never revealed.
The total for the plan is over $83 million:
|Type of Improvement
|Elkins Park School
The Director of Facilities, Dr. Bavi, as well as the superintendent
mentioned several times that this five year plan cost was reduced from
the original cost of $151 Million. They did not state which of the
KCBA options made up the $151 Million. Presumably the $151 million
option included the construction of a new high school– the debt
service for which would be a neutron bomb to the township's
The second part of the meeting concerned the financing of the $83.7
million plan. The payout installments were listed as follows:
It was mentioned that presently approximately 10% of the budget is
consumed by servicing the debt. By 2019-20, that figure will rise to
13%. In 2020 the annual debt payment would be $14.6 Million.
There are currently $10 Million in capital reserves with a
committed/assigned fund balance of $9 Million. The maintenance of a
"strong fund balance", at a level of 6% to 8% of budget, keeps the
districts bond rating strong.
Presently Cheltenham School District debt carries a A– S&P rating.
This allows the district to issue debt without the cost of bond
insurance. However it was mentioned that the last time the district
was downgraded, it was because the State of Pennsylvania was
If Pennsylvania is downgraded again, the district's rating
automatically goes down. So the district may be forced to buy bond
insurance no matter how much money is tied up in the fund balance.
Cedarbrook Construction Update
The environmental contamination remediation effort is stalled because
the contractor will not put in fill to cover the contaminated area
until he is given assurance that his employees will not be affected.
Four Month Lease Gap at Ivy Hill
Because of Cedarbrook construction delays, there is a need to extend
leases for the facilities at the current satellite locations. The new
target date for the completion of the Cedarbrook project is
Extension of the Ivy Hill lease has proven to be a problem: the
landlord wants a minimum 1 year extension where the district only
needs 4 months.
The district then looked at other properties and found nothing
suitable available for short-term lease.
So the next option is to place the Ivy Hill students in other schools
in the district.
The solutions looked at were:
- One or more of the Elementary schools.
- The High School.
- Elkins Park Modulars.
The elementary schools do not have enough room to accommodate the Ivy
Hill students. The High School could accommodate a second 8Th Grade
class and the Elkins Park Modulars can accommodate the rest.
Cyber Option for Cheltenham
With the problem of finding places for Cedarbrook students at Ivy
Hill, as well as the task of finding places for Elkins Park students
when that construction starts, one would think that it would be
helpful to offer parents a cyber option for educating students.
Even a small percentage of parents choosing a Cyber Option would help
ease the burden of finding places for kids.
Back in March of 2013, The Cheltenham School Board approved a contract
with a company called VLN Partners, LLP to provide an official
school district "cyber option" for online instruction. No mention of
this VLN Partners effort– or any type of cyber option– has been seen
again at board meetings.
Of course, if the district's cyber offering did not match up to the
competition (for example, see here or here or here or here etc…) it
might lead to students leaving the "Cheltenham reservation". So it is
not a surprise that nothing ever came of the VLN Partners effort.
Finance Committee Meeting
The projected 2017-18 budget is presently in deficit to the tune of
$2.9 Million; however it is highly preliminary and there are many
factors to be worked out.
The maximum tax increase for this year is 2.5%. This translates to
to an increase of 1.1274 mills to bring the rate up to 46.2217
Mills. For the Median assessment, ($144,290), this translates to a
yearly tax bill of $6669.33.
Because of the structure of the teachers contract settlement, salary
costs are increasing 5.1% over 2016-17. The PSERS rate (which is
based on salaries) is increasing from 30% to 32.57%. In other words,
if the district is paying a teacher $130,000 in salary and PSERS in
2016-17, the district will pay $139,331 in 2017-18.