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‘Not a Whole Lot Has Changed,’ Superintendent Says of Budget

The school board doesn't discuss the budget at length ... but it will on Feb. 25 and March 18.

The Upper Dublin School Board recommended board approval of the 2013-14 preliminary budget at its work session meeting last night … but there wasn’t much said about it.

About three weeks ago, the school board presented its proposed preliminary budget. The presentation highlighted a budget deficit, a proposed tax increase and likely “broad and comprehensive” cuts.

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At last night’s meeting, Upper Dublin School District Superintendent Michael Pladus said, “Not a whole lot has changed in 21 days … Behind the scenes, I can tell you, not a day goes by when we’re not spending hours trying to come up with budgetary reductions.”

Richard Petruschke, a Fort Washington resident, was the only member in a sparse audience to speak last night. He said he was surprised that the board wasn’t discussing the preliminary budget at the meeting; he went on to ask about the size of the administration and the need for an assistant superintendent.

Pladus responded to most of his comments.

Check out the video.

After the meeting, Petruschke said that the board should do everything it can to prevent a tax increase.

“I picked up a copy of Dr. Pladus’ comments, and [Pladus] said he’s got a really serious problem, and I agree with him,” Petruschke said. “I told him that I go to meetings all the time, and I told him that they were going to have this problem this year, and they really didn’t address the situation … and you know what, next year it’s going to be even worse because they won’t have any reserve fund …"

School Board President Joseph Chmielewski said after the meeting that the board is still early in the budget process; he added that the board will hold budget-centric meetings on Feb. 25 and March 18.

“As we get further into budget process, and we know more, we’ll get more into the big functions of the budget.” 

On parents’ input regarding the budget, Chmielewski said:

“I guess the most feedback from the parents was when the parents met in the cafeteria. We read the comments in Patch, and the printed newspaper, so we read what we can, we try to keep our ear to the ground, I think we know the issues pretty well and we’re trying to address them the best we can. This is a pro-education community and a pro-education board, and we want to keep it going. But we’re also dealing with the world of budget difficulties.”

Maple Glen Mom February 06, 2013 at 01:04 AM
My comment was half joking. I actually think it is pretty hilarious that no one with any actual official say in the matter has even recommended shutting down a school...and you are dictating personnel changes. You go girl!
Adam Young February 06, 2013 at 01:15 AM
They need to keep the cuts in place that Pladus originally laid out. The taxes in Upper Dublin are obscene and cannot go any higher!
Dsacco February 06, 2013 at 02:09 AM
There are now 2 superintendents and 2 curriculumn directors. For 50 years there were one of each. They could probably find 100k in savings there. Cut all admin to .80 just like the specials teachers.
Mary Keptke February 06, 2013 at 02:20 AM
Maple Glen Mom, Does that mean you were half serious? When school closings were taken "off the table" It means that at some point they were "on the table". That is pretty official. We are having serious budget issues and they are already discussing cutting personel (ask the soon to be .8 Music and Art teachers) so why is the discussion of cutting a six figure member of the administration taboo? Sandy Run is a school 3 times the size of any of the elementary schools and it has a principal and an assistant principal. It use to have 2 assistant principals. The High School has only 350 more students than Sandy Run and they have a principal and 3 assitant principals. The point is Denise Falconi is making it work with less and she is doing a pretty good job. Maple Glen Mom, I am sorry you can not understand what the conversation is really about. Any reference to Mr Bickhard is truly only in an attempt discuss and come up with a solution to the budget issues. When only 25% of the district's population uses the school district you can not expect to have nothing touch "your" school.
Dsacco February 06, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Mr. Bickhart is a phenomenal principal!
Joe Koenig February 06, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Please let me clear up my statement. Mr. Mr. Chmielewski did not indicate the a school closing was ever on the table, but said that the Board was not considering the closing of an elementary school. Mrs. Barrett reminded the audience of the confusion and disruption when one of the elementary schools was closed for an oil spill. I did not want to imply that the Board evey indicated that closing a school was on the table, and I believe, they want to do all they can to keep all the schools open. We can agree or disagree with this option ( I think it may have to happen), but to attack Mr. Chmielewski is unfair. I think the Board will eventually have to come to certain conclusions in order to balance the budget in the future.
Mary Keptke February 06, 2013 at 12:28 PM
I also hope none of my comments are seen as an attack on Mr Chmielewski. I do however think closing a school may be the only way to go. I've been through school closings and school openings. It isn't that bad. At first people get upset because no one likes change, but in the long run it is for the best.
qdogPa February 06, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Dresher Mom, i would bet you would not move...UDSD is very highly rated and to move because they closed a school that may need extensive renovations in the near future is shortsighted..Would you rather them keep the school open and see your taxes increase every year going foward? I doubt it...
qdogPa February 06, 2013 at 01:49 PM
6% realtor fee, 1% realty transfer fees on both buy and sell, not to mention siginifcant moving expenses and misc expenses all because the you may have to put your children in another school within e top rated district??? talk about NOT coming to grips with financial repsonsibilities. :)
Alan February 06, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Everyone needs to relax. First, I'm not sure of why Mary's opinions of principals is somehow more valid than Maple Glen Mom's (MGM). In fact, Mary, you should not speak of a "consensus" opinion as I agree with MGM. Mr. Bickhart is a fantastic principal. And I'm sure Ms. Place is great too. But you're several steps -- and years -- ahead of the problem at hand. While facilities are an issue and consolidation may be on the table, the only issue that will directly affect the budget is teacher pensions. Every other issue is a short term fix and will lead us right back to where we are now. If you really want to ensure the vitality of the district, pensions must be drastically changed at the state and local levels. Until that happens, the only people who will be directly affected are the kids. So you have to ask yourself what is more important: Paying for the retirement of people no longer employed by the district or providing safe, excellent education for our children?
qdogPa February 06, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Alan, i have been saying that for years, pensions and healthcare benefits are the biggest issue..And it is affecting every school district, not just UDSD
David Plasket February 06, 2013 at 03:02 PM
Exactly what is it about Thomas Fitzwater that is so beneath your standards? Both of my sons attended the school and the last time I checked it still had a BLUE RIBBON rating. Dave
Don M February 06, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Afraid of some racial and religious integration, Dresher Mom? The diversity of Thomas Fitzwater is very broad economically and demographically and those students have very much benefited from that experience. I'm sorry you do not see the value in that. But if I'm drawing the wrong conclusion about your misgivings, perhaps you should keep in mind these two schools you mentioned make up about 50% of the student population at SRMS and UDHS. Will you pull your children out before attending those schools if these feeder elementary schools are such horrible places? I've known plenty of JTES parents and families over the years and I haven't been impressed any more or less than anyone else I've spoken to so get off your high horse and take your closed mindedness elsewhere. I hardly consider JTES as worthy of elitist standards.
David Plasket February 06, 2013 at 03:31 PM
As much as everybody hates any and all tax increases there is something to consider. Depending on the value of you house we are talking about an average of $15 a Month increase. To a lot of us that might be one less trip to Starbucks. Not a bad price to pay to keep Music in our Schools David (my real Name) Plasket
qdogPa February 06, 2013 at 04:01 PM
David,you are correct about the overall tax increase THIS year, but it has been just about EVERY year..So it starts as one less trip to Starbucks,but doesn't take long until it is 1 less trip to the grocery store, then 1 less car payment one can afford
Loretta Wilkinson February 06, 2013 at 05:49 PM
You sound like one of the several "kept" women in Upper Dublin Township. 17-18 in a classroom? Horror of horrors! They can handle 25 in an elementary classroom, easily. And you're just "using" the Upper Dublin schools until you can pull them out and put them into a private school? Yeah, that's pretty snobby. If you can affort $15K a year each for two kids in middle and high school, you can afford it now. Pull them out, move, whatever. People like you and your kids won't be missed at all.
udresident February 06, 2013 at 10:18 PM
LOL, with that attitude, I am quite sure the Maple Glen and Fitzwater families would be happy to help you pack.
Concerned Resident February 07, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Amen.....we are so lucky to live in such a great area with so many great schools. That said, I am interested why UD continues to raise taxes at such a clip when you talk to friends in other very competitive districts. Does not bode well if that increasing trend continues
HLove February 07, 2013 at 03:09 AM
I'm also a Dresher mom, but my kids attend TFWE. Why not allow your children to attend?
HLove February 07, 2013 at 03:19 AM
The real reality is we need to find a solution. My family has lived in this district for two years now and our home has lost value since we have moved in. If the township continues to tax higher and higher they are turning off new families from moving in and pushing out existing families. If the taxes continue to raise yearly, I know my family has to reassess if this township is worth the investment, even though we love it.
Mary Keptke February 07, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Hlove I feel for you. You bought at a really bad time. It is hard for a fiscally conservative person to get elected, so often they are branded "anti-education". Kids do not need all the bells and whistles to get a quality education. I have been in this district a long time. My kids have had to adjust when the district made decisions. They did fine. It is not fair to ask 75% of the population to pay more when there are real solutions to our dilemma. Some have to be resolved at the next Teachers contract and I think some should be resolved with facilities management. Short sighted people have a NIMBY mentality. My family has had to bite the bullet for school district decisions in the past, it turned out okay. A school may have to close, a principal may have to find another position, but balancing what is best for everyone in the district is what is really important. A listing of races does not speak to the economic and educational disparities a school has to overcome. It shows a lack of understanding and is insulting. Schools may have similar total racial and ethnic diversity, but it does not take into account that certain ethnic and racial groups have other social and economic realities that will affect how these realities will impact learning and stress the schools resources. It would be an honor to have my children go to TFES, they are doing amazing things over there. That is the principal to keep
UpsetUDTaxpayer February 08, 2013 at 04:45 PM
There have been some great suggestions above but here are a few more: 1) Isn't school about education? Sports & after school programs are great, but not at the expense of cutting teachers and classes. 2) What is being done to ensure that the students showing up are actually UD Township Taxpayer Dependents? How many students still attend that have moved out of district but "forget to let us know" and transfer to the right school? 3) St. Mary's. I am SHOCKED that no one has mentioned this. How much money does Philadelphia owe us these days for these children attending our schools, special bussing, special classrooms, additional support services? At last year's budget it was around $2M. What is it now? 4) Have the board & Superintendent offered to take a pay-cut commensurate with the cuts that they are requesting of the teachers? Just my thoughts...
qdogPa February 08, 2013 at 06:34 PM
They said the same thing about calculators....
udresident February 08, 2013 at 07:08 PM
- I am pretty sure that the School Board members don't get paid. They get a small stipend, to cover things like phone calls to constituents, and such, but they don't get a salary. -WIFI is something that is being accomplished via a matching program between school fundraisers and the Upper Dublin Education Foundation. That is all donated money--no tax money. -In terms of that latter, you could make the argument that those funds should be used to save jobs, or programs or whatever, that are at risk because of funding issues, but there may be some legal contraints on that, in terms of what funds can be utilized to fund a district contract, etc. Also, many people donated money specifically to go towards WIFI.
udresident February 08, 2013 at 07:35 PM
I guess it depends on the school. Our PTO has done a great job of raising money towards that goal.
Realist February 10, 2013 at 11:57 AM
Raise taxes. Raise level of education. Ultimately property values will go up. It's about the children. That's why we live here. If you don't like it, move.
Curmudgeon February 10, 2013 at 12:12 PM
@Realist: I'll never change your mind, bur if we can't take care of ourselves (financially), we can't take care of the children. If you're not worried about incompentence and bad decisions, I can't help. If you don't care how much $$ is spent per child, move to DC, they spend more than we do. How dare you tell me to move. You're intolerance is typical of Liberals who think they have all the answers. How dare you presume why I live here!!! YOU DOLT!!!
Andi Lyn February 10, 2013 at 12:56 PM
I was happy to see that so many people have joined this debate. In my opinion there are far too many people employed by UDSD. Special education office has a DIrector and an Assistant Director and an assistant to the director and three secretaries. As an outsider who have children receiving services I can't understand what all these people are doing. I think the board should be looking really hard at the outdated workforce/ beauracracy that is just choking the budget. How can they be thinking about cutting music and art when they have spent millions on building a performing arts center? I don't get it.
jmf February 10, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I was also happy to read the wonderful exchange of ideas on the many facets of this issue. However, I was disappointed by the single attack (Curmudgeon) on a person's character and political affiliation. I will not retaliate with name calling (even though I lean Republican) because that is not what this is about and, more importantly, is not helpful. Let's stick to the fact: this thread is about our educational system and how to finance it. We need to lead our children by example.
allthingsmatter February 12, 2013 at 06:47 PM
I attended the meeting last evening (Feb. 11). I was dismayed that the idea of cutting 9th grade sports - an activity only 9th graders can do - is "not preferred". However, cutting numerous activities that 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders can do is acceptable. If a 9th grade athlete wants to play a sport, there are township leagues and there is cross country, winter track, and spring track. Plus there are opportuinites to try for JV and Varsity each year they are in high school. With the proposed budget cuts, if a kid is an athlete or involved in performing arts, they will have access to extracurriculars. But for all the rest of the students - too bad for you. It was shown on a slide last evening that cutting 9th grade sports saves more than just reducing a few assistant coaches. If the District felt they could live with the lesser savings of just cutting a few assistant coaches, why not cut the 9th grade sports and save a few of the activities.

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