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Upper Dublin School Board Proposed 4.25% Tax Increase

Even with a decreasing deficit for the 2012-13 budget, Upper Dublin School District is still proposing a 4.25 percent tax increase.

Upper Dublin School District held another budget meeting to look at updates to the 2012-13 budget. Brenda Bray, Business Administrator, said, “The deficit for next year is decreasing.”

She also told the Board that Moody’s had not downgraded the District’s credit rating, but did note that there are challenges ahead for the district. The District’s fund balances and the Act 1 Index, which makes it difficult for the district to raise taxes and replenish the fund balance, were the two that topped Moody’s list.

However, a bond auction on the District's 2006 series A and AA bonds did better than expected, and the district will save $746,000 overall for the life of the bonds and $492,285 during the 2012-13 school year.

Health Care Consortium

The Bucks-Montgomery Health Care Consortium that the district has joined for the 2012-13 school year will save the district $300,000 in health care costs. That total has been increasing as more and more districts join the consortium.

Early Retirement Incentive

The district has implemented an early retirement incentive this year and expects a $500,000 savings. Two teachers have already expressed that they will retire this spring, and the administration expects that around ten more teachers will opt for the early retirement incentive.

The $500,000 savings, according to Thomas Sigafoos, Director of Human Resources, includes replacing teachers that need replacing and the $25,000 incentive to those teachers that choose to retire early.

The district is hoping that as teachers retire, that they do not have to rehire for those positions, which is an even greater savings for the district.

Howver, the 2012-13 budget as written accounts for the same amount of teachers, aides, librarians and teaching assistants next year at the same salaries as the district has this year.

The budget also doesn’t allow for any new teachers.

Latin and Driver’s Ed

For the two teachers who will be retiring at the end of the year, it still has to be determined by the administration and the board if the positions will be eliminated or filled.

Parents turned out to speak in favor of saving the Sandy Run Latin program, showcasing the near-perfect SAT and PSSA scores students have achieved, and the high commendations on the state Latin exam.

The administration told the board that they are looking to see if there is a way to save Driver’s Ed, as well as all programs, without increasing costs to the district.

Superintendent Michael Pladus said Upper Dublin School District is the last in Montgomery County to offer driver’s education classes in school.

“If there’s a way to maintain Driver’s Ed for one more year, I would love that,” said Pladus.

Any decision to cut the programs would need to be on the Board agenda in May.

Transportation Consortium

Upper Dublin School District will partner with Springfield Township School District for the 2012-13 school year for a transportation consortium. Unlike the 2011-12 school year, the district is going to start small.

According to Bray, Springfield School District is half the size of Upper Dublin in student population, but has twice the fleet. The partnership will be used to share out of district runs.

The rental of the bus garage is also a large cost to the township, said Bray.

Budgetary Reserves

Bray told the Board that the administration was able to find $49,387 in savings. Bray asked the Board if they would like the savings to be classified as budgetary reserve or used to aid in balancing the budget.

Joseph Chmielewski said, “Bearing in mind we currently have nothing in budgetary reserves,” and if the money is not used at the end of the year, it will fall back into the fund balance.

Budgetary reserves are monies set aside by school districts for unexpected expenses during the school year.

Tax Increases

With still a $465,000 deficit for the 2012-13 school year, and a projected $3 million end of the year balance in the districts fund balance, the administration has proposed a 4.25 percent tax increase.

Chmielewski said there are still funds that are in a “state of flux” for the 2012-13 budget and expects the district will be able to balance the budget with a tax increase.

Art Levinowitz asked the administration to show the differences between the proposed 4.25 percent, and then also 3.75 percent and 3.25 percent tax increases.

“We have an obligation to the community to look at different options,” said Levinowitz.

“If we want to reduce the tax rate we have to do so on something besides we want to do it,” said Chmielewski.

“The administration can and will continue to work at reducing the budget,” said Pladus. “I think we can be successful coming down from were we’re at, at the 4.25 percent.”

Editor's Note: some of the information in this original article may have been incorrect, stating that the Driver's Ed and middle school latin teachers were retiring. Those programs are being considered to not be continued after the 2011-12 school year.

Bob McArthur April 25, 2012 at 07:17 PM
We're taxed enough already!!
Curmudgeon April 25, 2012 at 08:08 PM
The school board is so dense that it refuted Dr. Levinowitz's proposal to look at lower tax increases and its affect on the budget. This might have given them some political cover as to increasing taxes 4.25%, but they are in their own little bubble. They authorized an increase in bond borrowing for capital projects, but these projects are so small, and in my opinion would be funded under capital expenditures in the operating budget under normal circumstances, They borrowed in effect to balance the budget. Kudos to Dr. Ludwig for supporting Dr. Levinowitz's proposal. Either she is more politically astute or has a clue as to fiscal disicipline. Next budget there will really be some hard decisions. The next year we need to let the Board know they must hold the line on salaries and benefits or ALL Employees.
Daniel Holland April 25, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Didn't they just increase our taxes?
Deborah Shulman Brecher April 25, 2012 at 09:57 PM
While few wish to see their taxes increased, this certainly will pose great difficulty for residents on a fixed income and those who are suffering to make ends meet. Times are hard, and I would hate to think that residents may be forced to sell because they cannot afford their taxes. It's a difficult proposal coming at a difficult time.
Concerned Resident April 25, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Kudos to Art Levinowitz for his proposal to look at the different tax rates and effects -- greatly appreciate his efforts to foster a closer analysis!!!
Michael Friedman April 25, 2012 at 11:00 PM
You are making it hard for new residents to purchase homes in Upper Dublin township. The Increasing Real Estate taxes are scaring them away. Combine Bus programs, Cut the waist. It can be done. What is the cost for busing all these students into our township? Can this program be cut down?
danny roturra April 25, 2012 at 11:54 PM
while the comments thus far have been rational, they seem to ignore the obtuseness of the school board. this increase is, actually, a compound increase based on previous increases. they are on a misguided mission. they are and have been unqualified to address the situation with budget cuts, not tax increases. perhaps they need to be recalled or, better yet, we should refuse to pay. then they will have no choice but to abandon their touchy feely approach to their budgetary responsibilities. we should not have to pay for their fantasies....
Latin supporter April 26, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Some of the information is wrong The middle school Latin teacher is NOT retiring, neither is the driver's ed teacher-he is just reassigned since a phys ed teacher is reitiring. Latin students do really learn and test very highly because of the value of Latin.
James April 26, 2012 at 04:34 PM
So we are to fork over more money to help schools in which kids from Philadelphia can go to? How much is St. Mary's paying in?
UpsetUDTaxpayer April 26, 2012 at 06:38 PM
The $500,000 question we should all be asking is, "When did UD decide to donate my hard earned dollars to help fund St. Mary's Villa?" I understand that there are legal requirements to teach students; however, why are we, as tax payers, responsible for floating the money for a Non-Profit Organization that CHOOSES to bring additional costs upon our district? How is this legal? Now we are forced to decrease programs, lay off teachers, pay increased taxes, in part, due to Saint Mary's. The students disrupt our schools (http://upperdublin.patch.com/articles/udsd-answers-parent-concerns-after-srms-fight), require additional, separate bussing (see same article), and need additional support services as their students have, "demonstrated a history of truancy, emotional disturbance, family conflict and difficulties in the community" (http://www.smvcf.org ) taking services away from the students of UD tax payers. To make matters worse, St. Mary's is a blight on our Police Department. It is my understanding that the UDPD is continually called to the St. Mary's campus to help find runaway kids, fights, neighborhood disturbances, etc. And how do those students pay us back for our generosity? THEY ROB ST. MARY'S, AND NEIGHBORHOOD HOMES WHILE WE ARE OUT WORKING TO PAY THEIR TUITION! http://upperdublin.patch.com/articles/ud-burglary-suspect-captured When is enough enough?
Leann Pettit April 26, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Thank you for the clarification! I've adjusted the article to reflect my confusion.
UD student May 03, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Im a student and just to let you know just becuase you don't like the St. Mary's kids doesn't mean you have to blame everything on them. I understand your concern with the fights and students not responding well to it but you are sterotyping all saint mary's kids as bad and that's not the right thing to do for as they are decent human beings too. I also understand that you have a problem with UD helping fund saint marys but the truth is saint marys villa student/kids have been going to upper dublin since the 80's. I'm currently in the 8th grade with some of these saint marys students. Also UD is forcing people to do anything. And one last thing when you stated "THEY ROB ST. MARY'S, AND NEIGHBORHOOD HOMES WHILE WE ARE OUT WORKING TO PAY THEIR TUITION" thats my proof of you sterotyping all saint mary's kids. You dont know what they might have gone through that makes them do what they do. So you can't blame them becuase thats the first thing that come to mind. Also if you don't paying you can always move but that might be tough... I know that I said one more thing but this is the last the fight the you posted the link did not invole any sandy run/ upper dublin students who dont go to saint mary's no one was hurt that goes to sandy run and lives with their famlies. But the fight that happen today did and UD staff handled it well so no one got injured. so with the great staff everyone no one should be scared so stop complaing and BLAMING st. mary's for this. it s not your problem.
UD student May 03, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I meant ud isn't forcing people to do anything .I also meant to say the last fight you posetd the link for not what I said beofre.
UpsetUDTaxpayer May 11, 2012 at 02:39 PM
UD Student Thank you for taking a stand and voicing your opinion / experiences. In this post, I did not mention the "good kids" and 75+ yr history. I also agree with you that the staff did a great job protecting ALL students from additional harm, INCLUDING those that were fighting. My post was really about the financial impact of St. Mary's on UD. St. Mary's recently changed their status with the state which impacted the way in which they are paid. Previously, St. Mary's would directly bill the districts that students were coming from and would be responsible for chasing down their money. With their status change, UD now has to actually PAY St. Mary's for teaching the kids on THE ST. MARY'S CAMPUS and must then collect money. This past year's bill was just shy of $2 MILLION. UD has to absorb the paperwork costs, time associated with billing, etc. Additionally, Philly does not pay us on time (or in full) so we have to take out loans / raise taxes to pay our bills. Issue on a bus? Get a separate bus. Fights in school? Hire more staff. Staff / student injured in fight? Dr. bills and possible lawsuit. All these things cost UD money. The Villa impacts our police dpt. Kids run away, fights, etc. The more issues, the more cops we have to hire. More money spent. Finally, St. Mary's is a Non-Profit and DOES NOT PAY TAXES like regular residents, yet use our resources. The robbery comment was a little childish and said in frustration. I hope this makes sense.
Eileen September 03, 2012 at 02:25 PM
While paying her taxes an elderly woman was telling me two of her long time close friends and neighbors moved out of the township due to the taxes. Another elderly couple commented they may not be here next year due to the taxes. The couple remarked they have lived in this township for 40 years, have no children in school, get no tax relief but do get imposed with higher taxes every year. I agree, the taxes are making it hard for people to purchase homes in Upper Dublin township and at the same time driving out long time residents that have invested their lives in this community.
Cynthia B. April 05, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Husband and I used to be residents of Willowmere and were considering moving back. But when I saw the taxes on a two-bedroom unit were in excess of $8,000 a year, Willowmere is no longer an option for us. Yes, your unreasonable real estate taxes are driving people out of Upper Dublin. Too bad. It used to be a good place to live.

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