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2017-09-12 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-09-12Live Recording

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Cheltenham School District to Target Individual Homeowners for Tax Increases

A short statement by the school district solicitor concerned the districts response to a July 2017 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case: Valley Forge Towers Apartments LP v. Upper Merion Area School District. In this case, the court ruled that the the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution blocks school districts from selectively targeting commercial properties for tax increases through tax assessment appeals.

It is easy to see why districts would target commercial properties: they yield the biggest financial return at the lowest political price. Commercial property owners have only one vote but can be squeezed for several residential properties worth of tax revenue.

At tonight's meeting Solicitor Roos stated:

Beginning with the 2018 tax year, the district will identify properties in the district— whether they are commercial, industrial or residential— which appear to be under-assessed to the extent that a successful assessment appeal will be expected to provide the district with a realization of at least Ten Thousand Dollars per year in real estate taxes for the district.

The board has authorized the retention of a separate firm to analyze residential appeals in addition to the [real estate] appraiser that has already been retained to review commercial and industrial appeals.

Your Podmaster notes that $10,000 per year in tax revenue equates to a property under-assessment of $217,623 at the present school district millage. Your Podmaster also wonders:

  • How did the district arrive at the $10,000 trigger level for reassessment ?
  • Does the board really think that a commercial property owner attorney fighting a reassessment will not challenge an arbitrary $10,000 trigger level ?
  • Does the district have "real" data on the legal cost of reassessments to set a trigger level based on facts ?

It is hard to see how the homestead or Farmstead Exclusion won't be the next thing that commercial property owners challenge in court. What a train wreck. Property Tax Elimination Act anyone ?

Recess Time Cut Outrages Parents

The majority of the meeting concerned a decision to cut recess back to 15 minutes.

The unspoken issue related to the "Employee Workday" provisions in Teacher's Contract agreed to last year by the present school board. The contract stipulates that the "professional employee workday in grades K-4 shall be seven hours and fifteen minutes with a forty-five minute lunch period. A minimum of fifteen minutes will be for non-instructional activities." The contract also limits the "employee work year" to 190 days maximum.

Superintendent Wagner Marseille is trying to square the circle of reversing the academic decline of district while hemmed in by the seven hour per day contractual limit for "instructional activities" that he can get out of his teachers.

So the casualty of this conflict appears to be 15 minutes of recess time. There also was reportedly a reduction in lunch time at the high school.

Some of the residents stated that the reduction in recess was a unilateral action by the administration with no notice given to parents or teachers. At the very end of the meeting, the school principals came to the microphone and said that there were many teachers involved in the scheduling decision. Principal Dr. Crystal Clark of Wyncote Elementary stated that she had 9 teachers involved in the new schedule.

2017-09-12Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-09-121Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 3
2017-09-122Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 3
2017-09-123Regular Legislative Meeting Part 3 of 3

2017-09-12Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-09-12Agenda
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Exp Summary 2.pdf (41 KB)
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Revenue.pdf (30 KB)
2017-09-12248 Repeal.pdf (15 KB)
2017-09-12248_1 - Repeal.pdf (92 KB)
2017-09-12249 repeal.pdf (35 KB)
2017-09-12P233 Suspension and Expulsion Second Read 09 12 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-09-12P247 Prohibited Harassment Second Read-Adoption 09 12 2017.pdf (154 KB)
2017-09-12Secretary-Office of Education 08 2017.pdf (307 KB)
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Exp Summary 2.pdf (41 KB)
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Revenue.pdf (30 KB)
2017-09-12248 Repeal.pdf (15 KB)
2017-09-12248_1 - Repeal.pdf (92 KB)
2017-09-12249 repeal.pdf (35 KB)
2017-09-12P233 Suspension and Expulsion Second Read 09 12 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-09-12P247 Prohibited Harassment Second Read-Adoption 09 12 2017.pdf (154 KB)
2017-09-12Secretary-Office of Education 08 2017.pdf (307 KB)

2017-09-05 Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-09-05Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting
Cedarbrook Project Notes
  • The main news was another delay in the estimated Cedarbrook Construction completion date which is now February 28 2018.
  • The board was frustrated by the fact that a specific description of the causes of the latest schedule slippage could not be given— they were told that the schedule spreadsheet contains "thousands of cells" and is too complex to pinpoint the exact cause of the delay.
  • At the last Facilities Meeting, the announced construction completion date was February 16 2018.
  • Previous to that, the date was January 18 2018.
  • There was much discussion of the fact that opening Cedarbrook after spring break is improbable since there is much work to do between completion of construction and opening the school (state permits, moving in furniture, cleaning, etc…).
  • A ballpark "best case" estimate of 6 weeks after the completion of construction to opening the building was given.
  • In general, the contractor is blaming the elevator shaft environmental contamination for the bulk of the project delays.
  • There are over 100 people working at the Cedarbrook site.
  • Overall the project was described as 72% completed with 78% of the work site enclosed.
Finance Committee Meeting
Audio Recording on School Buses

There was a discussion of numerous finance-related policies and one that appears to have nothing to do with finance: audio recording policy on school buses./

Most likely this issue was discussed at this meeting because transportation falls under the purview of the business office.

The problem discussed was that while a video recording may be used to prosecute a specific violation, the audio track may have proof of other violations. The question was basically how to use the additional information that the audio track would provide.

Other Policies

Other policies discussed revolved around student activity funds, bank selection interval, payroll deductions and petty cash management. Later it was mentioned that the district has some credit cards that are issued to specific individuals, the supervisor being one of them. Dr. Marseille mentioned that he uses his mainly for conference fees and conference travel expenses such as hotels and meals.

2017-09-05Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-09-051Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 1
2017-09-052Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 1

2017-09-05Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-09-05Video and Audio Monitoring on School Buses (Policy 810.2)

2017-08-08 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-08-08Live Recording

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Solicitor's Report

The Cheltenham Solicitor disavowed participation in a Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) lawsuit against an organization called Pennsylvanians for Union Reform (PFUR) which was filed in Cumberland County on the 17th of July.

The website of Pennsylvanians for Union Reform is down; however their Facebook page is still up. Some fragments of the PFUR website on search engine cache contain a statement that the PSBA lawsuit was a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit. Again, the PFUR webpage that contained the statement is down.

Wikipedia describes a SLAPP as, "a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition."

As of 8/13, your podmaster found no news item regarding the lawsuit on the PSBA News webpage.

PSBA is suing PFUR and its principal, Mr. Simon Campbell, for $50,000 "with punitive damages, interests, costs of suit". PSBA alleges,"a relentless campaign of harassment, repeated defamations, tortious interference and abuse of process under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law." The suit was filed in Cumberland County. The defendent is a resident of Bucks County.

While the Cheltenham Solicitor can state that Cheltenham is not a party to the suit, Cheltenham is a member of PSBA and to that extent will be sharing in the loss (or gain) of the whole process.

If PFUR's allegation is correct— that the suit is a PSBA SLAPP— with the PFUR website down it looks like "mission accomplished."

Cedarbrook Report

There was no mention of the revised construction estimated completion date of February 16 2018 which caused such a stir at the Facilities Committee meeting last week.

School Director Napoleon Nelson's Wife Hired

The wife of School Director Napoleon Nelson, Shareese Nelson, was hired as "Administrator for Climate and Culture" at the Elkins Park School. The annual 2017-2018 salary will be $80,000.

America's Most Challenging High Schools

Back in 2014, this website reported that Cheltenham High was dropped from the Washington Post High School Challenge. Cheltenham High is certainly not listed this year. 2012 is ancient history…perhaps it is time to take the banner down….

2017-08-08Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-08-081Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2017-08-08Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-08-08Agenda
2017-08-08July 2017 Revenue.pdf (23 KB)
2017-08-08July 2017 Exp Summary.pdf (39 KB)
2017-08-08218_1 Repeal 2nd Read.pdf (22 KB)
2017-08-08248 Repeal 1st Read.pdf (15 KB)
2017-08-08248_1 Repeal.pdf (88 KB)
2017-08-08249 repeal 1st Read.pdf (35 KB)
2017-08-08Elementary Discipline Chart 8.7.17 (AR 218 - Attachment A) (01475947xAED82).pdf (131 KB)
2017-08-08P 218 Student Discipline Adoption 08 08 2017 (01451209xAED82).pdf (129 KB)
2017-08-08P218.2 Weapons 8.7.17 (01475949xAED82) (1).pdf (121 KB)
2017-08-08P223 Smoking and Tobacco Use 8.7.17 (01475950xAED82).pdf (12 KB)
2017-08-08P226 Student Searches 08 08 2017 (01455284xAED82).pdf (10 KB)
2017-08-08P227 Controlled Substances 8.7.17 (01475952xAED82).pdf (16 KB)
2017-08-08P233 Suspension and Expulsion 8.7.17 (01475954xAED82).pdf (11 KB)
2017-08-08P247 Prohibited Harassment 1st Read 08 08 2017 (01455988xAED82)_1.pdf (154 KB)
2017-08-08P247 Prohibited Harassment 1st Read 08 08 2017 (01455988xAED82).pdf (154 KB)
2017-08-08R 218 Student Discipline 06 22 2017 (01451210xAED82).pdf (12 KB)
2017-08-08R 223 Smoking and Tobacco Use 08 08 2017.pdf (109 KB)
2017-08-08R 226 Student Searches 8.7.17 (01475951xAED82).pdf (130 KB)
2017-08-08Secondary Discipline Chart 8.7.17 (AR 218 - Attachment B) (01475948xAED82).pdf (147 KB)

2017-08-01 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-08-01Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting
Cedarbrook Middle School Construction Project

The main headline for this meeting was that the schedule for completion of Cedarbrook construction is slipping by a month: the estimated completion date for construction is February 16 2018.

The previous announced completion date was January 18 2018.

It was emphasized that the new February 16 2018 estimated construction completion is a soft date. It was also mentioned that after construction is completed, there will be additional time needed:

  • 2-4 weeks for furniture installation.
  • 2-4 weeks for cleaning.

In addition, there are several potential delays in the permitting and approvals area. In particular, the state must certify that the elevator is safe. The building cannot open without this certification. At this time the elevator is not yet complete. It was said that the state has been known to be non-responsive to the needs for timely inspection.

One of the main causes of the schedule slippage was attributed to the bankruptcy of a roofing subcontractor.

At this time the facilities director was instructed to contact the school district's law firm regarding the project delays.

There was some discussion of delaying the opening of Cedarbrook to September 2018. There would be additional costs in maintaining the satellite campuses involved.

The facilities director mentioned that the construction company gave him a verbal assurance that they will,"get it done in December." There was much discussion on how the district has little leverage in this process, despite the potential of charging the contractor liquidated damages of thousands of dollars per day. If relations deteriorate to that stage, the contractor can pull people out of the work site to make up for the cost of the damages resulting in further delays.

Finance Committee Meeting
2016-17 Budget Review

The present year budget had some unanticipated expenses that fortunately were matched with some unanticipated revenues. The main figures for both sides of the balance sheet were:

  • Unanticipated Expenses
    • Special Education: $2.5 million
    • Salaries/Benefits - $800,000
  • Unanticipated Revenues
    • Positive Assessment Settlements: $1,300,000
    • State Transportation Subsidies: $852,472
    • State Basic and Special Education Subsidy: $500,000
2017-18 Budget

Next year's budget has moved to a pie chart presentation. Your podcaster found it amazing that the 2017-18 budget expenditures showed only 55% of the budget is for classroom instruction.

Given that the true cost of each teacher is inflated by over 30% for pension cost (PSERS), the actual budget that goes directly for classroom instruction (sans pension) would most likely be much lower than 55%.

A separate PIE slice for pension cost (PSERS) isn't possible presently, because the raw PSERS numbers are not broken out on the regular budget spreadsheet.

2017-08-01Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-08-011Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2017-08-012Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2
2017-08-013Finance Committee Meeting

2017-08-01Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-08-01Finance Committee 08.01.17
2017-08-01Facilities Committee August 2017 Presentation

2017-18 Cheltenham School Tax Infographic

Permalink2017-06-17Update

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2017-18 Tax Infographic

Our annual tax infographic is designed to correct the misleading announcement by the district of the annual Cheltenham school tax increase which is usually stated in the incremental figure of the increase and not in the full amount.

2017-06-172017-18 Tax Infographic Sources

DateWeb Link
2017-06-17Social Security Fast Facts for 2016
2017-06-17US Census Bureau 2015 ACS Income Data for Philadelphia Metro Region
2017-06-17 PA Department of Labor and Industry

2017-06-13 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-06-13Live Recording

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Back from the Brink: 2017-18 Tax Increase Reduced down to 1.9%

Last week your podmaster reported that the district was planning to impose the legal limit tax increase of 2.5% from the earlier planned increase of 1.7%.

At this meeting the board adopted a final increase of 1.9% (45.9511 mills). This will increase the monthly payment on the median home assessment of $143,775 as follows:

Payment Plan This Year (2016-17) Next Year (2017-18)
Yearly $6483.43 $6606.62
Monthly $540.27 $550.55

The superintendent made a statement that the original plan to hire eight additional staff members in the wake of the school violence last month has been modified. Specifically, plans to hire additional safety officers and additional secretarial support has been shelved in favor of additional "climate and culture" work.

In other news, the Solicitor's report that the rule on vaccinations has changed from an allowance of "months" to only 5 days that a child must be vaccinated at the start of the school year or face exclusion.

The Wawa at 8250 Limekiln Pike in Wyncote has filed an assessment appeal. According to the Montgomery County website this property has an assessed value of $1,073,910. At the present year millage rate, this Wawa is paying over $48,000 in school tax. This school tax bill (according to Wawa's online menu) is roughly equal to:

  • 33,398 Twelve Ounce Cups of Wawa Coffee (@ $1.45) or…
  • 16,756 Breakfast Sizzli®s (@ $2.89) or …
  • 14,285 Breakfast Burritos (@ $3.39) or …
  • 9,903 Five Piece Chicken Strips (@ $4.89) or …
  • 7,823 Double Meat Shorti®s (@ $6.19)

Of course this Wawa has to sell many more of these items to cover their costs to finally have the money to pay their school tax bill.

2017-06-13Regular Legislative Meeting MP3

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-06-131Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2017-06-13Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-06-13Budget Transfers (12).pdf (174 KB)
2017-06-13May 2017 Exp Summary.pdf (50 KB)
2017-06-13May 2017 Revenue.pdf (37 KB)
2017-06-13EDEP Agenda 6 13 17 Final (2).pdf (22 KB)
2017-06-13Volunteers June 2017.docx (125 KB)
2017-06-13218_1 Repeal Truant and Incorrigible Students.pdf (22 KB)
2017-06-13P 218 Student Discipline Repeat 1st Read 06 13 2017 (01422926xAED82) (1).pdf (129 KB)
2017-06-13P218.2 Weapons Repeat First Read 06 13 2017.pdf (121 KB)
2017-06-13P223 Smoking and Tobacco Repeat First Read 06 13 2017.pdf (12 KB)
2017-06-13P226 Student Searces Repeat First Read 06 13 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-06-13P227 Controlled Substances Repeat First Read 06 13 2017.pdf (16 KB)
2017-06-13P254 Student Wellness 6.1.17 (01441447xAED82) (2).pdf (119 KB)
2017-06-13Revised 2017-2018 Approved Academic Calendar Junen 13 2017.pdf (181 KB)
2017-06-13P361, 461, 561 Crowdfunding Second Read 06 13 2017.pdf (112 KB)
2017-06-132017 ESY Teaching Staff List.pdf (12 KB)
2017-06-132017 Summer Custodial Help.pdf (15 KB)
2017-06-132017 Summer Experience Teachers.pdf (14 KB)
2017-06-132017 Summer School Staffing List.pdf (26 KB)
2017-06-13Summer 2017 ESY Para-Educator List.pdf (37 KB)
2017-06-13P204 Attendance 6.1.17 (01441192xAED82) (1).pdf (10 KB)

2017-06-06 Finance and Facilities Committee Meetings in 4 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-06-06Live Recording

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Finance Committee Meeting: Proposed Yearly Tax for Next Year Pushed to the Legal Limit

The plan previously reported for next year's tax increase was a limited increase of 1.7% with a transfer of $963,550 from reserves to balance the budget.

Because of the school violence last month that sent teachers to the hospital, that plan has changed: the district will now increase taxes by the maximum allowed by law: 2.5%.

The change is driven by the need to hire additional personnel to handle security and "climate and culture" so that violent incidents will be reduced. Eight additional staff members will be hired as part of this effort.

Long time district observers know when faced with a difficult choice, the path of least resistance is to raise taxes. Our updated chart of enrollment versus tax rates confirms this (with 2018 enrollment projections):

Cheltenham-EnrollmentvsMillage1998-2018.pdf

In this case, the present property tax system allows physical violence occurring in the schools to be converted into economic violence against the most vulnerable people in the township.

2017-06-06Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-06-061Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2017-06-062Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2
2017-06-063Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2017-06-064Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2

2017-06-06Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-06-06Facilities Committee June_2017 Presentation
2017-06-06Financial Affairs Committee Presentation June 2017

2017-05-08 Community Meeting on High School Climate in 5 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-05-08Live Recording

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This is the Community Meeting on High School climate that occurred as a result of the brawl of last week that sent teachers to the hospital. Unfortunately this was only one of many altercations listed during the last 6 months in the crimereports.com database for the High School address.

2017-05-08Community Meeting on High School Climate MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-05-081Community Meeting on High School Climate Meeting Part 1 of 5
2017-05-082Community Meeting on High School Climate Meeting Part 2 of 5
2017-05-083Community Meeting on High School Climate Meeting Part 3 of 5
2017-05-084Community Meeting on High School Climate Meeting Part 4 of 5
2017-05-085Community Meeting on High School Climate Meeting Part 5 of 5

2017-05-08Community Meeting on High School Climate Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-05-08Dr. Marseille May 8th Remarks
2017-05-08MAY 8 PRESENTATION

2017-05-02 Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-05-02Live Recording

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Finance Committee Meeting
Present Year Budget (2016-17)

Under Business Manager Cara Michaels, the review of the present year budget, which typically takes place at the end of the finance meeting, is a non-event with few surprises since she rarely misses the mark. At this meeting there was one surprise presented: A $1.8 Million budget gap under the "Professional and Technical Services" category.

It was explained that this unanticipated cost was from the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit "Autistic Support." The cost was incurred during the 2014-15 budget year under the former superintendent,Natalie Thomas It was also mentioned that transportation costs are also running over budget.

The budget gap is mitigated somewhat by unanticipated local and state revenue. Ultimately, more money may have to be withdrawn from the fund balance. For the past few years, the fund balance has been the only factor shielding Cheltenham Township residents against a full Act 1 Index tax increase.

Next Year's Budget (2017-18)

The proposed final budget for next year will be presented at the May legislative meeting for approval. The budget is in deficit by over $2.9 Million. Rather than reducing expenditures, the district has chosen to balance the budget through a 1.7% tax increase and another transfer ($963,550) from the fund balance.

The yearly tax bill on the median home (assessed at $144,290) is going from this year's amount of $6507 to next year's $6617. Broken down monthly, the school tax bill on that median home is going up from $542 per month to $551.

The new 2017-18 Cheltenham School Tax millage rate of 45.8609 will still be the highest in Montgomery County.

Facilities Committee Meeting
Cedarbrook Construction
  • The Geothermal field is complete and paving on top of the field is progressing.
  • All underground utilities in the gym area are complete ant the concrete slab is in place.
  • Concrete is currently being poured in the admin area.
  • All contamination near the elevator shaft has been removed and concrete work is taking place in the area.
  • Block work is complete to the extent that the outline of the school is visible.
  • There is no boiler in the building– it is dependent on the geothermal system.
  • There are presently close to 90 workers on the construction site.
  • The scheduled January 2018 opening is still on.
  • The contractor will have to pay $5000 per day liquidated damages if the building is late.
Cedarbrook Furniture Bid
  • The district uses KI Furnishings as its standard manufacturer.
  • The district bid request was sent to 9 different vendors of KI Furniture.
  • Out of the 9 vendors, only one bid on the job: a company called Educational Furniture Solutions from Norristown.
  • The bid was for $929K, which is less than the $1.7 Million budgeted amount.
  • It was recommended that the board accept the bid even though only one firm bid on the job.
Cedarbrook Electrical Design Change Order
  • There are problems with the electrical engineering of the Cedarbrook project.
  • There are numerous omissions that were not included in the original construction bid.
  • The omissions include:
    • Missing public address speakers.
    • Missing branch outlets.
    • Missing Ethernet wiring.
    • Missing Exit Signs.
  • The design firm responsible for the omissions,Snyder Hoffman, will pay only 15% of the cost of correcting the problem.
  • Because the problems were caught at this stage, there will be no demolition work needed to make way for the additional circuitry.
  • The President of Snyder Hoffman, Robert Malehorn, apologized to the board in person.

2017-05-02Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-05-021Facilities Committee Meeting
2017-05-022Finance Committee Meeting

2017-05-02Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-05-02Financial Affairs Committee Meeting May 2017
2017-05-02Facilities Committee MAY 2017

2017-04-18 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-04-18Live Recording

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Regular Legislative Meeting Notes

This meeting started with the annual retirements ceremony which is too lengthy to cover in the podcast. In regular news, The Residency report covered the district's efforts to ensure that only those students who are legal residents can attend school here. As a district that borders the city, non-resident students can drain resources and crowd classrooms in schools that are already struggling. The district maintains a hotline to report those who are abusing the system. The residency hotline is:

215-881-6336

The district also has an anonymous web reporting system available at www.cheltenham.org.

One of the interesting points raised about the residency issue is that homeless students who are not residents, must be accommodated by the district. During the policy committee briefing, it was reported that there were 4 homeless students admitted to the district.

With the highest school tax millage in Montgomery County, it would be interesting to determine if Cheltenham School District had a role in making these students homeless since the district is the plaintiff in so many Sheriff Sales. For example, here is the district activity in the upcoming 4/26/2017 Sheriff Sale:

Law Reporter Suppl.# Docket Number Sale Address Plaintiff
vs
Defendant
Twp/Borough Parcel No. Plaintiff Attorney Disposition
~
Sale Date
Debt Amount
~
All Costs
201608573 120 JEFFERSON AVE School District of Cheltenham Township
vs
BARKER WILLIAM J III
Cheltenham 310015295001
Boehret, Diane, M. STAYED
4/26/2017
$6,379.24
$298.00
201608575 1005 STRATFORD AVE School District of Cheltenham Township
vs
CLARK KARIN WILLIAMSON
Cheltenham 310025459007
Boehret, Diane, M. STAYED
4/26/2017
$10,128.69
$268.00
154 201509233 570 COTTMAN ST School District of Cheltenham Township
vs
Moss Jacqueline & Goss Peter Craig, Wells Fargo Bank, NA, trustee of Anna Goss, deceased
Cheltenham 310026521007
Boehret, Diane, M. Postponed to
5/31/2017
$11,220.76
$2,446.39
158 201509778 7304 GRANITE RD School District of Cheltenham Township
vs
NEW VISION YOUTH COMMUNITY CENTER
Cheltenham 310012214004
Boehret, Diane, M. Postponed to
5/31/2017
$2,538.74
$2,029.68
118 201425896 273 BICKLEY RD School District of Cheltenham Township
vs
POATE HERBERT L III (Deceased) & PATRICIA A
Cheltenham 310002575004
Boehret, Diane, M. Pstpnd by CO to
4/26/2017
$6,028.09
$1,746.76
182 201520575 48 BONCOUER RD School District of Cheltenham Township
vs
COOKE MELBA S & KEVIN
Cheltenham 310002821001
Boehret, Diane, M. Pstpnd by CO to
4/26/2017
$7,054.35
$2,193.58

2017-04-18Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-04-181Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2017-04-18Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-04-18Agenda
2017-04-18March 2017 Exp Summary.pdf (45 KB)
2017-04-18March 2017 Revenue.pdf (31 KB)
2017-04-18P254 Student Wellness New 1st Read April 18 2017.pdf (133 KB)
2017-04-18P259 Homeless Studentes 2nd Read 04 18 2017.pdf (122 KB)
2017-04-18EDEP Agenda 4 18 17 Final.pdf (27 KB)
2017-04-18Volunteers April 2017.pdf (37 KB)
2017-04-18Budget Transfers (10).pdf (147 KB)

2017-04-04 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-04-04Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting
  • Cedarbrook Construction Project
    • Overall Project Status
      • It was estimated that the project is over 50% complete.
      • The estimated completion date is 1/18/2018. This is not the date that the new school will open. It was mentioned that it takes approximately 4 weeks to move a school.
      • The lease for the Ivy Hill facility expires on 6/30/2017.
      • The cost to pay for "schedule acceleration" would be "over 10 million Dollars."
    • Elevator Shaft Environmental Contamination
      • All contaminated material has been removed.
      • All testing has been completed and has "passed."
      • Contractors are now bringing in fresh soil.
      • The fresh soil must be compacted to make is suitable for a subfloor.
    • Geothermal Project
      • All piping has been completed. There are 3 main pipes to the building: a supply, a return and a spare.
      • One aspect of the system that has not been previously emphasized: the geothermal system is heat pump system. There will be no boiler in the new Cedarbrook.
      • Many heat pump systems have a backup heating system to handle the extreme cold. It is not known if Cedarbrook will have a backup heater.
  • Cheltenham High School Gymnasium/Roof Renovation
    • This agenda item pertained to a change order to the architect working on the CHS Gymnasium/Roof Renovation project.
    • It is for add-on design work to include:
      • Removal and replacement of the industrial washer and dryer for team uniforms.
      • Motorized wrestling mat and batting cage lifts
      • Provide new trophy cases in the gym corridor
      • Video recording cameras fixed on four corners of the gymnasium walls.
    • The cost for this additional design work is $24,800.
    • The cost for the actual work is unknown.
  • Cheltenham High School STEM Classrooms/Life Skill/Lavatories/Modular Bids
    • Because this was not a large job, the number of companies bidding was thin.
    • The total cost of this project is $3,643,225
Finance Committee Meeting
  • Policy Reviews
    • All the departments are reviewing policies to keep them up to date.
    • The main policy change mentioned is that the district will be requiring employees to use direct deposit for paychecks.
  • Transportation Contract
    • The transportation contract is one of the largest expenses of the district. It will expire on June 30, 2018.
    • The contract stipulates that the school district take one of two next steps:
      1. Renew an additional 5 years at existing terms identified before June 1, 2017
      2. Begin "exclusive" negotiations with current contractor starting on June 1, 2017.
    • If the district can't work out a deal, then the contract will be put out to bid.
  • 2017-18 Budget Update
    • As previously mentioned, the 2017-18 Budget is set for:
      • Revenues of $111,005,070
      • Expenses of $113,909,574
      • A Deficit of $2,904,504
    • The deficit will be covered by:
      • A Tax increase of 1.7% or 0.7666 mills.
      • A transfer of $963,550 of the Fund Balance
    • The next move is in May at the regular meeting where the board will adopt the 2017-18 Proposed Final Budget.
  • Current Year Budget Snapshot
    • The current fiscal year is 75% complete.
    • Revenues are at 89.87% of budget at this time.
    • Expenses are at 70.48% of budget at this time.

2017-04-04Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-04-041Facilities Committee Meeting
2017-04-042Finance Committee Meeting

2017-04-04Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-04-04Financial Affairs Committee Presentation April 2017
2017-04-04Facilities Committee Presentation April 2017

2017-03-21 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-03-21Live Recording

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Leaked School Climate Survey

As is often the case with the monthly meeting, the most important part was in the public comments section at the end. For this meeting there were several people commenting on the results of a "leaked climate survey" that was conducted among Cheltenham High School staff. The exact title was given as "Cheltenham High School School Climate Survey".

There was no description given of the organization that conducted the survey– whether it was administered by a from a private firm or from the Pennsylvania School Climate Survey. There was also no description the survey's sponsor, although the most likely suspect would be one of the district bargaining units.

Your podmaster contacted the Pennsylvania School Climate Survey (email) to determine if they conducted the survey and (if so) to request the release of the results to the public.

So far, the contents of the survey can only be gauged by the public comments:

"When I read this read this report I got emotional….The report shocked me….the inmates are running the asylum….The teachers feel powerless…."

"Next school year, I'll have 4 kids in the district. I've been in the township for 13 years. I had full intention of keeping my kids in the township and for the first time ever in the last week— when I heard stories about teachers being unhappy and feeling unsafe and kids feeling unsafe— I've spent more time on Zillow [ed. a real estate website] in the past 7 days then I ever have."

Board president Bill England made the following statement:

"I just want to say that the document that is floating among, that was handed to me by another community resident, did not come from this board. It did not come from this building. I don't really want to say a lot more about that right now. It is a troubling document for a variety of reasons and it is something that is being addressed by the administration."

Teacher Stacie Stoops

With the issue teacher workplace attitudes raised by the "leaked survey" in mind, your podmaster thought it was a good time to follow up on an issue from several months ago-- a issue that had the school board meeting room filled with angry parents. This was the story of Teacher Stacie Stoops.

Last November, the local NBC affiliate reported that this teacher was suspended by the district. The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported that this teacher was suspended because she made racially disparaging comments in the classroom.

Last December this website reported that the board approved, "a detailed written statement of charges to Stacie Stoops." The Stoops dismissal was to be contested by the teachers association and was also scheduled to be decided by an independent arbitrator.

Since then, I have been scanning the Cheltenham BoardDocs® Agendas looking for the arbitrator decision and have found nothing.

With no word regarding the final outcome of this case it is clear that the teacher has not yet been formally terminated— a termination notice would have been a school board agenda item.

It is possible that this teacher has been in limbo all this time; however, being in employment limbo is a rather rough way to treat someone who needs to get on with their life. It is also hard to imagine that this matter has been in limbo this long, given the requirements of the CEA agreement for handling terminations.

Conversely, if this teacher has been quietly reinstated without an exculpatory statement from the district, then the other teachers know they can't expect the district to "have their back" when their name is dragged through the media mud.

Given the possibilities, it is hardly surprising that the "leaked survey" revealed such negative attitudes.

Solicitors Report

The solicitor report mentioned that surveillance videos taken on school district property have been formally classified as non-public records.

Tax Increase Finalization

The final tax increase for the coming year will be adopted at the May 9th meeting.

Shared Administrative Office Space

While most of the focus has been on the rebuilding of district schools, the need to replace the district administration building is also waiting in the wings.

Four superintendents ago, the district was considering leasing office space outside of the township– an approach that was widely reported as Cheltenham being too expensive for it's own school district.

For a short time, the Cheltenham Admin building was up for sale.

There were also plans to include the administration building in plans to build a new Cedarbrook complex.

This week, the Liaison Committee report mentioned that the school district and the township are discussing the possibility of developing shared office space for the administration. Whether or not this would lead to a complete replacement of the Cheltenham School District Admin building was not disclosed.

2017-03-21Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-03-211Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2017-03-212Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2017-03-21Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-03-21P117 Homebound Instruction 2 23 17 (01389814xAED82).pdf (38 KB)
2017-03-21P121 Field Trips second read 03 14 2017 .pdf (50 KB)
2017-03-21P122 Extracurricular and Cocurricular Activities 2nd Read 03 14 2017(01334761xAED82) (2).pdf (72 KB)
2017-03-21P123 Student Athletics 2nd Read 03 14 2017 (01373863xAED82).pdf (49 KB)
2017-03-21P225 Students and the Police 2nd Read 03 14 2017.pdf (38 KB)
2017-03-21P254 Student Wellness 1st Read March 14 2017.pdf (87 KB)
2017-03-21P259 Homeless Studentes 1st Read 03 14 2017.pdf (85 KB)
2017-03-21Budget Transfers (9).pdf (449 KB)
2017-03-21Revenue (1).pdf (34 KB)
2017-03-21Expenditure Summary .pdf (44 KB)
2017-03-21Volunteers March 2017.pdf (33 KB)
2017-03-21DRAFT Calendar 2017-2018 (1) (1).pdf (172 KB)
2017-03-21SUPERINTENDENT Goals 3.12.17.pdf (593 KB)

2017-03-07 Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-03-07Live Recording

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Finance Committee Meeting Notes
Proposed 2017-18 Tax Increase

The most important news from this meeting is the release of the recommended Tax Increase for 2017-18 Budget. While the board had committed to a tax increase below the Act 1 Maximum of 2.5%, the actual increase for 2017-18 for has not been announced until this meeting.

The projected 2017-18 budget showed a deficit of $2,904,504.

The administration is recommending an increase of 1.7%– an increase of 0.7666 Mills to a 2017-18 school tax rate of 45.8609 mills.

For the median home assessment of $144,290 the yearly school tax bill will be over $6617.

It is always amusing that when the district lays out a tax increase, they will mention the incremental amount of the monthly or yearly tax increase figure like the graphic taken from the finance presentation below:

CHS-tax-increase-graphic-2017-18.png

Your podmaster wonders if the district thinks we can't figure that the actual yearly tax bill on the median home is going from $6507 to $6617. Broken down monthly, the school tax bill on that median home is going up from $542 per month to $551.

In some areas of the country you can rent an apartment for less than the Cheltenham School Tax payment.

The proposed 1.7% increase will raise $1,378,069. The difference between the amount raised by the tax increase and the $2,904,504 deficit ($963,550) will be made up by a transfer from the surplus (fund balance).

Long Term Budget Projection

While a reduced tax increase from the "maximum" is always good news, it may just be the quiet before the storm. The district projected budget shows the deficit growing to over $10 Million in year 2021-22:

Year 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Revenues $106,568,566 $112,546,024 $114,725,264 $117,358,778 $119,370,601 $122,093,305
Expenditures $107,443,307 $113,509,574 $115,979,117 $121,511,631 $128,411,620 $132,864,497
Surplus/Deficit -$874,741 -$963,550 -$1,253,853 -$4,152,853 -$9,041,019 -$10,771,192

The district tax increase projections are pegged to the Act 1 index. In other words the projection does not show the necessary increases that will be needed to close the over $10 million deficit in 2021-22.

Even with an Act 1 pegged projection— and assuming no change in assessment value over the period— the yearly tax bill on the median home raise to over $7K per year in 2021-22:

Year 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Median Assessment $144,290 $144,290 $144,290 $144,290 $144,290 $144,290
Millage Rate 45.0943 45.8609 46.6405 47.7599 48.9061 50.08
Yearly School Tax Bill $6506.66 $6617.27 $6729.76 $6891.28 $7056.66 $7226.04
Monthly School Tax Bill $542.22 $551.44 $560.81 $574.27 $588.06 $602.17
Facilities Committee Meeting Notes
  • Cedarbrook Project
    • Elevator Shaft Environmental Cleanup
      • There was an oil leak in the elevator shaft of Cedarbrook that lasted for years and contaminated the surrounding soil.
      • The original environmental abatement plan was to "cap" the area and place a restriction on the deed which would describe the contamination to future owners.
      • The prime contractor refused to work in the area where there was environmental contamination, so a project to remove the contamination was required.
      • A subcontractor will remove the contamination.
      • All agreements regarding this effort have been completed.
      • Work started on 3/6/2017.
      • Excavation is occurring now with the contaminated soil being stored in the back of the site for trucks to remove it.
      • Brand new concrete work and utility work (conduits, piping, etc…) will have to be demolished and trucked out as part of this effort.
      • The time frame for this work is 20 days.
      • Ground water in the area will be tested.
    • Geothermal Project
      • 440 pipes are being connected to two main pipes that connect to the building.
    • Workforce on job site
      • The number of workers on the site has increased from 60 to 80 people.
      • The number will soon reach 110 people.

2017-03-07Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-03-071Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2017-03-072Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2

2017-03-07Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-03-07Financial Affairs Presentation March 2017
2017-03-07Facilities Committee March 2017

Cheltenham School District Court Activity Update

Permalink2017-02-18Update

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Your Podmaster has been observing Tax lien Case number 2015-15473 for some time now. This is the case of a 2014 School tax debt that is in collection. The debtor has the same name as a current school board member.

In the latest activity in this case, the collection firm of Portnoff Law Associates has filed "a Writ of Scire fracias to add the United States of America."

It is curious that for a school district that seems to have a written policy for everything, there appears to be no policy regarding school board members who owe property tax money to the school district, let alone those who have legal action against them.

In other court activity, while this web site normally monitors tax liens that the school district is filing against township residents, last December, The Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Fund placed a $45459.26 lien against Cheltenham Township School district. This case is marked closed as of 2/7/2017.

It is sad to report that the following individuals and businesses have been hauled into court to pay their Cheltenham School Tax bill (Click on the "Continue without logging in" link to view the case.):

2017-02-18Cheltenham School District Tax Liens 7/24/2016-2/18/2017

Case Number/Web LinkDate Filed
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-14996 7/25/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-14998 7/25/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-15000 7/25/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-15003 7/25/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-15248 7/28/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-15255 7/28/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-19838 8/9/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-20122 8/12/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-20462 8/19/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-20570 8/19/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-20799 8/25/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-20800 8/25/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-22363 9/8/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-23161 9/21/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-23172 9/21/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-24321 10/7/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-24656 10/12/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-27324 11/10/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-27326 11/10/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-27330 11/10/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-27475 11/14/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-28116 11/17/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2016-30205 12/23/2016
School Tax Court Case Number: 2017-01369 1/20/2017
School Tax Court Case Number: 2017-01778 1/25/2017
School Tax Court Case Number: 2017-03213 2/16/2017

2017-02-14 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-02-14Live Recording

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At this meeting the board approved a resolution opposing the Property Tax Elimination Act.

One item of note is that School Board member Napoleon Nelson is considering a run for the position of Township Tax Collector. He had to recuse himself from voting on an item pertaining to that office.

2017-02-14Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-02-141Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2017-02-14Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-02-14Jan 2017 Rev.pdf (33 KB)
2017-02-14Jan 2017 Exp Summary.pdf (44 KB)
2017-02-14P123 Student Athletics 1st Read 02 14 2017 (01373863xAED82).pdf (47 KB)
2017-02-14P117 Homebound Education 1ST READ 02 14 2017 (01358508xAED82) (1).pdf (51 KB)
2017-02-14P225 Students and the Police New First Read 02 14 2017.pdf (63 KB)
2017-02-14P121 Field Trips new first read 02 14 2017 .pdf (44 KB)
2017-02-14P122 Extracurricular and Cocurricular Activities New 1st Read 02 14 2017(01334761xAED82) (2).pdf (96 KB)
2017-02-14EDEP Agenda 2 14 17 Final.pdf (28 KB)
2017-02-14Feb 2017 HM.pdf (29 KB)
2017-02-14Leadership Stipend List Feb 2017.pdf (18 KB)
2017-02-14Volunteers February 2017.docx (90 KB)
2017-02-14Budget Transfers (1).pdf (368 KB)

2017-02-06 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-02-06Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting

During the December 2016 Facilities Meeting Langan Environmental presented their report concerning elevator shaft contamination discovered at the Cedarbrook Construction Site.

Langan outlined two options to handle the problem:

  1. Excavation and Off-site Disposal of the Site
  2. Capping the Site and Deed Notice/Environmental Covenant
  3. Option 1: Excavation and Off-site Disposal of the Site
    • This solution would require that utilities in the area to be stabilized and the contaminated soil would be removed and transported to a disposal site. This option would add delays to the reopening of Cedarbrook and cost over $500K.
  4. Option 2: Capping the Site and Deed Notice/Environmental Covenant Capping the Site and Deed Notice/Environmental Covenant
    • This option would "cap" the contaminated material under the new school building and by additional clean topsoil. This option would not result in any delay in Cedarbrook reopening and the cost would be minimal– $10K to $45K.

The board subsequently chose Option 2 for both cost and schedule reasons.

Unfortunately, the construction contractor working on the Cedarbrook project, Boro Construction, refused to sign off on Option 2. Some reasons were:

  • Boro does not have insurance to cover environmental issues.
  • Boro does not have the environmental expertise to handle this issue.
  • Workers would require extensive training and safety equipment.

So Option 1 will be required. Boro will hire a sub-contractor who will do the cleanup work. All the environmental-related liability will be the responsibility of this sub-contractor. The bids for this Option 1 solution came in at $340,625. It will result in a 2 week delay to the Cedarbrook reopening: to mid-November 2018.

Finance Committee Meeting

The majority of the Finance committee meeting was devoted to a presentation giving the district's opinion of HB/SB 76, The Property Tax Independence Act. The district's presentation is Here. Needless to say, our opinion is different:

realreformmb-003.png realreformmb-002.jpg realreform76-001.jpg

2017-02-06Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-02-061Facilities Committee Meeting
2017-02-062Finance Committee Meeting

2017-02-06Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-02-06Facilities FEBRUARY 2017
2017-02-06Financial Affairs Committee Meeting February 2017

2017-01-10 Regular Legislative Meeting

   Permalink2017-01-10Live Recording

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2017-01-10Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-01-101Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2017-01-10Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-01-10Agenda
2017-01-10Dec 2016 Exp Summary.pdf (44 KB)
2017-01-10Dec 2016 Rev.pdf (32 KB)
2017-01-10P225 Students and the Police First Read 12 13 2016.pdf (53 KB)
2017-01-10P121 Field Trips second first read 12 13 16 .pdf (59 KB)
2017-01-10P122 Extracurricular and Cocurricular Activities 2nd First Read 12 13 16 .pdf (93 KB)
2017-01-10January Stipened List.pdf (18 KB)
2017-01-10EDEP Agenda 1 10 17 Final.pdf (18 KB)
2017-01-10Volunteers January 2017.pdf (33 KB)
2017-01-10Budget Transfers .pdf (162 KB)

2017-01-03 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 4 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-01-03Live Recording

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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:

Name Description Total Project Cost Estimate
Elkins Park Option A Total renovation of existing building with a small addition (no work at administration building) $46,003,000
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 $47,333,000
Elkins Park Option C1 Construction of a new building housing a new Elkins Park School and new district administration office on current school site $48,861,000
Elkins Park Option C2 Construction of a new building housing a new Elkins Park School on current school site $38,538,000
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 $67,576,000
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 $65,820,000
Cheltenham HS Option C New high school constructed south of the existing building along Rices Mill Road $111,644,000
Cheltenham HS Athletic Complex Renovation of the athletic complex at CHS including new track, synthetic fields , site amenities, and stormwater management system $8,658,770

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 Amount
Health/Safety/Code/Lavatory $3,036,000
Energy Management/HVAC $17,010,000
Capital Improvements $11,679,000
Security/Fire Alarm $765,000
Athletic Fields $1,189,200
Elkins Park School $50,000,000
Total $83,679,200

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 economy.

The second part of the meeting concerned the financing of the $83.7 million plan. The payout installments were listed as follows:

Year Amount
2017-2018 $14,262,000
2018-2019 $26,610,000
2019-2020 $34,387,000
2020-2021 $4,630,200
2021-2022 $3,790,000
Total $83,679,200

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 downgraded.

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 January 2018.

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
2017-18 Budget

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.

2017-01-03Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-01-031Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 4
2017-01-032Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 4
2017-01-033Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 3 of 4
2017-01-034Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 4 of 4

2017-01-03Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-01-03Facilities Presentation January 2017
2017-01-03Facilities Presentation Capital Projects Jan 2017
2017-01-03Financial Affairs Presentation Jan 2017

Release of 2015-16 State Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS)

Release of 2015-16 State Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS) Permalink2016-12-17Update

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The state released the 2015-16 Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS) for all Cheltenham District schools. Last year only the high school received a BLAS score.

On the good news side, the high school has staged an impressive recovery from 66.5 in 2014-15 to 77.2 in 2015-16.

On the not-so-good-news side, apparently the continuing construction at Cedarbrook is taking a toll on performance: The BLAS for 2013-14 was an impressive 91.3 which has dropped to 65.8 in 2015-16.

While it can be understood that conditions at Cedarbrook can explain the drop in performance, the drop at Glenside Elementary (a new building) seems to throw doubt on the implication that new buildings equal higher test scores. Glenside Elementary scored an impressive 90.9 in 2013-14 while dropping down to 77.5 in 2015-16.

2016-12-17Building Level Academic Score 2012-2016

2012-132013-142014-152015-16
 
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