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The Neshaminy Board of School Directors met in public session on April 10, 2002 in the Board Room of the District Offices, Maple Point Middle School.  The following persons were in attendance:

BOARD MEMBERS:

ADMINISTRATORS:

Mr. Steven Schoenstadt, President

Dr. Gary Bowman*

Mrs. Yvonne Butville
Mr. Harry Dengler, Jr.

Mr. Harry Jones

Ms. Carol Drioli
Mrs. Kimberly Jowett

Mr. Joseph Paradise
Mr. P. Howard Wilson

Mr. Richard Eccles
George Mecleary, Jr., Esq.
Dr. William Spitz

Mr. Bruce Wyatt
Dr. Raymond Boccuti

Mr. Richard Marotto

SOLICITOR:   Not Present

 

 

BOARD MEMBER NOT PRESENT:
Mrs. June Bostwick, Vice-President

OTHERS:    Approximately twenty persons from the public, staff and press

SECRETARY:   Mrs. Anita Walls

 

 

 

*Arrived at 7:15 p.m.

 

 

1.   Call to Order

       Mr. Schoenstadt called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

2.   Pledge of Allegiance

       Mr. Schoenstadt requested those in attendance join in the salute to the flag.

Mr. Schoenstadt announced that before any agenda items would be discussed several items would be expounded upon regarding this evening and the next sixty days.  The Administration has prepared a

budget that they feel is their best wish list.  It represents what their thorough analysis has developed and it was brought to the Finance Committee of the Board of School Directors two weeks ago. At that committee meeting the three board members which are part of the committee reviewed same, and advised that this was sufficient information to begin to start the budget process and bring it to the attention of the full board.  The full board can analyze the budget in great detail and determine where, if any cuts have to be made, and what the final budget will be representing as far as the revenue and expenditure items for the district.  This meeting is, in fact, a meeting of the full board to start that analysis and determine what the final budget will contain.

Mr. Schoenstadt inquired if anyone had read the newspaper.  Mr. Schoenstadt further inquired whether anyone believed that the information in the newspaper was an accurate representation of what in fact took place prior to today�s meeting.  The fact is that no decisions have been reviewed by this Board. That was one misstatement by the press.  The point is you can only believe what you read is fact, after in fact, it is part of the process of the public and open meetings held by this Board.  There has been no discussion of areas for cuts, there has been no discussion of what the final budget looks like or will look like.  That is the process we are starting today.  Mr. Schoenstadt wanted everyone to understand the panic that was published in the press represented some accurate information, but a great deal of misinformation.  What is going to occur from tonight on represents the conscientious decision process of the full Board, nine members of the school district, that you elected to represent you in this process. Mr. Schoenstadt advised that the members of the audience present would be part of the process.  The audience will hear everything that the Board hears. 

Mrs. Drioli advised that she also saw the headline in the newspaper and almost had a heart attack, until she realized that she is part of that process, and she would not vote for anything like that.  The information was acquired approximately two or three weeks ago at a finance committee meeting where a discussion took place at great length regarding the various processes that could be taken in an effort to cut the budget, and if left untouched, a $400 increase would result.  At that meeting a representative from the Courier Times was present and it is absolutely their right to be there.  Mrs. Drioli advised that is a good thing.  However, the word that should come out of the committee meeting is that we are taking this to the Board for recommendation.  A committee meeting is just that, discussions, getting facts, learning, making comments.  These comments are not factual.  None of the Board members have seen this budget, so if anyone thinks a Board member has made a judgment to raise taxes $400 it is absolutely out of line and so is the Courier.  The Courier is serving no one but themselves.  The Courier is resorting to tabloid reporting.  They had that information two weeks ago, which could have been released two days after the meeting.  They chose to release that information two days prior to this meeting in an effort to �stir the pot� between the community, and take precious time away from this Board in an effort to conscientiously prepare for you a number that would be more reasonably acceptable.  Mrs. Drioli advised that to say your taxes are not going to rise would be a lie.  But, to tell the public that taxes will be going up $400, she can say that it will not happen with this Board.  To have a newspaper which is supposed to be serving the public and community and hence has done nothing but serve itself because it is their effort to try to get another headline for tomorrow�s paper is wrong.  Mrs. Drioli advised that her husband is on a fixed income and she also cannot sustain a $400 increase.  Mrs. Drioli will not accept it, and she has not heard that from any Board member that it is acceptable. 

Mrs. Drioli stated that she wished the Courier Times were present at this time and she is very angry at the irresponsibility of the Courier in this situation, and she does believe the public has a right to know and have input. 

Mrs. Drioli further advised that she was in support of the Tech School accepting, once again on the same basis as they did before, the special education students. 

Mrs. Butville advised that tonight we as a Board have not seen the budget.  Tonight is the first time the Board will see the budget, so no recommendations can be made until this evenings meeting and  thereafter.  Mrs. Butville also requested that since the Courier is not here if the Board Secretary would be willing to write up these first minutes of this meeting and be sure the Courier reporter receives them.

 3.   Public Comment

There was a two-minute time limit per speaker.  Mr. Barry Cardonet, Langhorne, a retired teacher of thirty-four years and a retired union official in Philadelphia stated he stood on picket lines in the seventies and got arrested and came to Neshaminy in the seventies to help build Neshaminys teacher union.  When the public employees union and teachers union and the state legislators got their well deserved pension increase in 2000, they neglected to put any retired teachers in that increase.  One has not occurred  in four years.  Many people have had very small increases over many years and they are the ones, hundreds maybe thousands of people in this district, that you will be asking to tax when they could have gotten some of that deal in the year 2000.  Not a penny was gotten.  Again, Mr. Cardonet advised that he worked for the union and ran a twenty million dollar health and welfare fund in the eighties.  A cost savings plan had to be put into effect due to the fact that the costs of prescriptions went up astronomically, and there were not enough contributions from the school board.  Savings had to be shifted during that time.  He realized that he would never be able to retire on a teachers pension, so he became a CPA and attorney.  Mr. Cardonet advised that he can read a union contract and he knows what goes into it, what cost savings are and he will volunteer at no cost to offer his services.  Mr. Cardonet agreed that newspapers are notoriously erroneous, but image if it did come out that way that a retired union person, who went to jail for the union, could be roused to ire. Imagine how your other residents would feel if this came in, impacting all at once, because of the fact that people from the PSERS gave $285 million dollars to consultants and $l6 billion dollars over the last couple of years and then passed the bill onto the Board which will then be passed on to the taxpayer.

Mr. Cardonet again advised that his services were for free.

Mr. Clem Piscetelli, Langhorne, advised it was incumbent upon the Board, at least the President, to take the newspaper to task, and write a letter to the editor or have another headline on the front page.  It is incumbent upon the Board, dont ask the secretary to write a letter, dont ask the administration to write a letter, the School Board President, should be writing a letter asking for an interview, getting his picture in the paper and tell the taxpayer it was not the correct information.

Mr. Herb Hoelzle, Feasterville, stated that whenever a budget happens with him, he gauges his budget by the raise he receives which is two to three percent per year.  He needs to cut and is sure that the Board will have to cut.  You cannot expect to raise five or ten percent without looking at cuts first.  Mr. Hoelzle urged the Board members to consider adopting a policy of eliminating school taxes and going to a wage tax.  Mr. Hoelze advised that he would be retired in two or three years.  His neighbors make three times his salary and maybe five times his salary by the time he retires.  The percentage that he pays, as a retired person is ridiculous compared to his neighbors.  It is not fair to the senior citizens in this district to pay such an exorbitant rate.  When they are forced to leave because they cannot afford to pay their taxes, what happens, a young family comes in with more children, and then the taxes will rise even more.  In order to save taxes and cut costs you should try to keep the people who have no children in the district to keep the costs down, and also consider, just increasing a couple children per classroom, not always decreasing where you are going to have twenty to a class.  Other private schools have forty and fifty in a class and they educate their children.  Mr. Hoelzle is not saying to have forty or fifty, but why not twenty-five or twenty-six.  Teachers could be asked to take voluntary early retirement.  Not hire so many people, cut costs.  Possibly have a carnival to raise funds for things that are not for education.

Mr. Solis Basen, Langhorne, recommended to the Board to consider doing what corporate America does.  In the last couple years all the large companies have cut their payrolls, asked their suppliers to knock down ten percent of their costs and have gone to other means.  Cutting the budget in this way would help tremendously.

Mr. Mike Morris, Langhorne, moved to the County approximately two years ago, has three children, and read the article in the newspaper.  Not certain how much truth was in the paper, but he realizes that there is a concern as far as Neshaminy School District and the pension.  His concern is what does Enron have to do with this budget plan.

Ms. Elaine Kelly, Langhorne, advised that her main concern was how the taxes going up would affect everyone.  She got a two percent raise yesterday and raising her taxes would be bad.  Her health insurance costs have gone up in January.  Ms. Kelly advised that she is worried, since no one is putting any money back into her pension fund.  She understands the taxes need to go up, but she does not have any children and, she knows a lot of people who do not have any children, who are paying for something they are not using.

Mr. Joe Beando, Langhorne, moved to Flowers Mills from Staten Island approximately one year ago.  His taxes in New York City were $l600.  He had a business in Manhattan.  When he was younger he asked his boss for a raise. Mr. Beando was never denied a raise, so when he hears about what unions get for their people he is concerned.  He does not have a pension, but is lucky he was able to derive a profit from the house he sold in Staten Island.  The figures that he negotiated for his house have changed tremendously.  If he did not have the Veterans Administration to go to for his medication he would not be able to afford the medicine.  Mr. Beando stated that when he hears people wanting an addition to their pension when he does not have anything, only depending on social security, how will a tax increase effect him.

Mr. Ted Stephis, lives in Neshaminy School District, living in Bucks County for 32 years.  Many people are pointing out they are having a hard time.  Taxes in this particular school district and districts around us are out of sight and they are going higher and higher.  There is no incentive for the school administrators to reduce costs.  They have a pot that is never ending.  He is very bothered by an area like Levittown where you see check cashing facilities.  This tells him that the economy of this community has declined dramatically in the amount of money that is brought into the community by the people who work here.  There are many people in the service industries that years ago people could afford, now they cannot.  The Board needs to start looking to cut the budget, not in the education area, by at least ten percent.  The Board owes it to the community.

Mr. Mark Dickler, Langhorne, resident of Flowers Mill went to Doylestown last week and attended the meeting between the school superintendents and the state legislators.  The legislators were very eloquent in their presentation.  They stated there just is not enough money and get used to it.  There is an $800 million dollar shortfall.  The truth of the matter is most of us are in that same situation, and for once he would like to see the Board turn around and find ways without disturbing what goes on directly in the classroom.  The Board needs to pull the belt in like everyone else in the country is doing. You can offer the same grade of education without taking the arbitrary increase that has become accustomed to happen every year.

Ms. Elaine Kelly advised that she went to Bishop Conwell and there was no air conditioning and students never had half the amenities that the children have today.  She realizes the schools are bigger and more computers are necessary, but little things that could save are available. 

Mr. Cardonet stated that the newspaper seemed to indicate that the budget problem is directly related to the retirement increase that was passed on to the district.

Mr. Schoenstadt stated that was one of the gross misrepresentations made by the Courier and if you stay for the presentation you will see very clearly where everything falls, and there is just not one area.  There are multiple problems and the states mishandling of the pension fund is only one part of the problem. 

Mrs. Drioli stated that this Board, prior to this point, actually has taken a very aggressive stand and took on a very difficult decision to close a school.  That was not an easy process for the Board and was done in an effort to be fiscally responsible to this community.  Mrs. Drioli also pointed out that not every school in the district is air-conditioned.  Sometimes when a building is renovated a building is more cost effective.  To suggest that things are running rampant is difficult to accept. 

Mrs. Drioli left the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

4.    Announcements

Dr. Bowman advised that Neshaminy School District in the past had a Neshaminy Scholarship Fund, and there was a Board of Trustees which dates back well over thirty years.  That group of people had a program where they raised money and they made loans to students who wanted to go to college.  The understanding was that when they graduated from college they would repay the loan.  As time went on many students took advantage of the loan and about the last l0-l5 years the scholarship program has been very inactive.  Students were obtaining other loans and students were repaying the loans, but some were not.  Dr. Bowman advised that the Board recently appointed twelve members of the Board of Directors of the Scholarship Fund. Neshaminy also has a very active Neshaminy Education Foundation, which was recently started.  Mr. Dengler is a member of that foundation.  Members of the Scholarship Fund directed that all the outstanding money be collected, which is not school district funds, but money which was raised elsewhere.  It would cost more money then what was available to collect.  Therefore, the Board of Directors met recently and they elected to close the scholarship fund, because they could not compete with all the other scholarships available.  A decision was made to turn approximately $l7,000 over to the Neshaminy Education Foundation under the clear direction that the Foundation would use this money to support educational programs and services in the district only on an annual basis, dependent upon the interest that the money earns.  The $l7,000 will continue forever.  

Dr. Bowman asked that Mr. Clem Piscetelli, former school board member and active member of the community, present $l7,890.00 to the Neshaminy Education Foundation.  Accepting on behalf of the Neshaminy Education Foundation was Board member, Mr. Harry Dengler.

Mr. Piscetelli advised that the Neshaminy Scholarship Fund consisted of a twelve-member committee.  Unfortunately, ten members went by the wayside.  According to the By-laws ten new members were appointed and there was a vote to disband the Scholarship Fund since approximately $55,500 was loaned out to various students, which was never collected. A check to the Neshaminy Education Foundation in the amount of $l7,890.l6 was presented to Mr. Harry Dengler on behalf of the Neshaminy Education Foundation.

        Mr. Schoenstadt wanted to recognize that Dr. Bowman, the Superintendent, is a non-voting member 
       
of the Board, providing advice and guidance.  Dr. Bowman has been a member of this Board for the 
       
past ten years.  Mr. Dengler has been a Board member in the district for ten and one-half years

       
and the Pennsylvania School Board Association awards boardsmanship and advanced
       
boardsmanship pins, for not only participation, but also taking advance courses to enhance their skills
       
so that their contribution can be meaningful and substantial. 

        Mr. Schoenstadt presented Dr. Bowman and Mr. Dengler with their pins and thanked them for their service.

5.  Item for Approval Carolyn Baldwin Memorial Scholarship Fund

Dr. Bowman advised that a wonderful teacher at the Pearl Buck Elementary School, Carolyn Baldwin, recently passed away and her family decided they would like to provide a scholarship in memory of Carolyn.  The family will make an initial contribution of Two Thousand ($2,000) Dollars and they will continue to make an annual contribution of Two Thousand ($2,000) Dollars per year for four years to be received by a student graduating from Neshaminy High School who will pursue a career in the teaching profession at the elementary level.  The district will manage the scholarship fund and the scholarship was worked out under the guidance of the school solicitors office. 

Mr. Mecleary presented the following motion:

WHEREAS, Carolyn Baldwin was a kindergarten teacher in the Pearl Buck Elementary School of the Neshaminy School District.  Most of her professional life was spent teaching at the early childhood level where she was a loving, enthusiastic, dynamic teacher who was dedicated to her craft and dedicated to her children; and

WHEREAS, Joseph Baldwin, Carolyn Baldwins husband, wishes to create the Carolyn Baldwin Memorial Scholarship Fund to be awarded to a senior graduating from the Neshaminy High School, who will pursue a career in the teaching profession at the elementary level; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Baldwin is making an initial contribution of $2,000 to the scholarship fund.  In accordance with an agreement between Joseph Baldwin and the Neshaminy School District, Mr. Baldwin will make additional contributions necessary to fund the annual award of a scholarship of $2,000 per year for a term of 4 years, provided the student meets the criteria set forth in the agreement.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, in accordance with Section 2l6 of the Public School Code, I move that the Board of School Directors accept the contribution being made by Mr. Baldwin for the creation of a scholarship fund, subject to the conditions established in the agreement between Neshaminy School District and Mr. Baldwin for the admission of said scholarship fund.

Mrs. Butville seconded the motion.  The Board unanimously approved the motion.  Ms. Drioli was not present.

6.  Items for Discussion

a.        Bucks County Technical High School Admissions/Criteria

Dr. Bowman introduced Mr. Lamar Snyder, Mr. Steve Butz and Mrs. Connie Rinker from the Tech School to provide a presentation to the Board regarding the topic of admissions and criteria for the Tech School, the process of admissions and what does the data state specifically regarding Neshaminy School District. 

Mr. Lamar Snyder was delighted to be able to come and provide information regarding the Tech School.  Mr. Snyder introduced Mrs. Rinker, Building Principal at the Technical School.

Mrs. Rinker provided background on how the application process was derived.  In l999 three documents had been adopted:

      Strategic Plan approved by the Joint School Board in which an action team was created which stated that there needed to be an improvement in the image of the school

      New School Committee was created to look at change agents that would be used to create that change High Schools That Work which is out of the Southern Region Education Board in Atlanta which states that Technical High Schools need to offer the same rigorous course work, college prep and academics as high schools offer.

      Industry and business in the community asking that we create students to be more marketable in their respective fields 

Mrs. Rinker distributed a copy of the Application that was created collaboratively with the six superintendents, six high school principals and the six secondary supervisors.   Several things are looked at:

         Students are asked to complete information on the application

         Essay is required asking the student to provide why they wish to attend Tech School

         Two years report cards are required  (continuity and consistency)

         Guidance counselors are asked to complete attendance, discipline, IEP, 504 Plan or any other special
  accommodations that is required.

         Teacher recommendation

Mrs. Rinker advised that three designated times (Tuesday and Thursday night, and Saturday morning) are provided when parents and students come to Tech together to receive an application.  Questions can be answered.  Parents and students can make the decision together to go to Tech.  After the three designated times twenty-five applications are forwarded to the high school and middle schools.  The students return same on a first come, first serve basis.  The Tech School receives the applications and they are stamped with the date and time.  Mrs. Rinker distributed for the Boards review a Rubrik sheet that was designed to a C student.  This Rubrik clarifies any misunderstanding in terms of whether or not the Tech School accepts special education students, students that are failing and can they be accepted.  The goal is to achieve 75 points on this document and meet the deadlines then there is no issue.  If the student falls below the 75 points and are in a gray area (65-75) we offer each district an appeals opportunity.  Additional information can be shared about a student.  Two representatives per child are allowed to appeal and Dr. Betty Kurlick from Bucks County Community College participates in those appeals and she is a non-biased party.  Dr. Kurlick has served as a probation officer, Dean of Admission of Bucks County Community College and she has a law degree. 

Mrs. Rinker advised that the program is designed to be an inclusion model.  The Tech School does not offer learning support classes.  Over 320 students have IEPs that is the highest percentage of any high school in the six sending districts.  Thirty percent of the population is special education. 

Mr. Butz distributed an overview of the application process in respect to all the sending districts and also one specific to Neshaminy.  Mr. Butz advised that the Tech School accepts slightly more then 400 students in the course of the year.  The total number of acceptances to date is 340-350 students.   From Neshaminy School District the total ninth grade applications received were l25 total applications and accepted were 75 incoming ninth grade students, 29 students applied for grades l0, 11 or l2.  All of those students are on a waiting list.  The Tech School is at capacity in the 9th and 10th grade.  It is expected that some room for additional students will be available.  The application process is ongoing. 

Mr. Schoenstadt inquired as to the Neshaminy quota allocated in the formula, how many seats are unfilled.  Mr. Butz replied that this year Neshaminy has an allotment of 9l or 95 students.  Currently, Neshaminy has 75 students enrolled and applications are still being received and they will be considered up through the end of April, and at that point it goes to open enrollment based upon the Articles of Agreement.  Mr. Butz advised that the critical point is that the Tech School is full in 9th and 10th grade this year.  All the popular programs, cosmetology, technology, computer electronics are filled. 

Mr. Schoenstadt commented that under no circumstances does the Tech School react to the admissions request by increasing staff regardless of whether you fill the requirement.  At that point every seat needs to be arbitrated since they are gone. 

Mr. Snyder stated that the students are encouraged to make application in the 9th grade.  When the Tech School goes to open enrollment on May 1st the seats that are not utilized by Neshaminy are open enrollment to any school district.  In the technical area you cannot exceed twenty-five students per teacher for safety issues.  In September a new technical program will be opened. 

          Mr. Snyder stated that in the 9th grade the student goes through an exploratory program and the 
          student is evaluated by the teachers in every area.  Students are scaled in January based on
attendance in the
           9th grade exploratory program, the work they completed and then they are
chosen for certain programs. 

          Mr. Eccles made an inquiry regarding the 29 students on the waiting list.  Mr. Butz advised that on May 15th
            
there will be an idea as to what technical areas have openings.
 

        Mr. Schoenstadt had a concern that if the student missed the 9th grade acceptance the student has little or no chance based on the popularity and acceptance of the programs, and the filling of those programs by other districts, Neshaminy will be responsible to create courses at Neshaminy. In some cases duplicating what the Tech School does.  Mr. Schoenstadt advised that does not seem to be the original purpose of creating a full time technical high school.  That was not what was envisioned twenty-five years ago.  Mr. Schoenstadt stated that the special education students are impacted the most.  Mr. Snyder commented that the Tech School is serving thirty percent special education. 

       Mr. Mecleary advised that the percentage of Neshaminy special education students is about 42% at the Technical School.  Mr. Snyder stated that if the Technical School were to accept more students, even on the academic side, classrooms would need to be added, as well as teachers.  The Tech School has come to the point next year where it will be at maximum capacity. 

       Dr. Bowman commented that when the new four year comprehensive technical high school opened all the districts had a certain number allocated.  One of the unique things in Neshaminy is that there is a middle school program that goes 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade.  Middle school students would like to complete the middle school program in our district, and then apply to the Tech School for 10th grade.  The first year the seats were not filled and those seats were made available to other 9th graders that wanted to attend.  Dr. Bowman advised that the good news is that this year our Technical School budget is down $1 million dollars, because fewer students took advantage.  The bad news is that as the 10th and 11th graders want to enroll there are no seats. 

       Mr. Snyder advised that when the Tech School visits the middle schools they advise students that we know you like it at the middle school; however, if you really have an interest in the technical school you must begin in the 9th grade.  Parents are also advised of this importance at the open house at the Tech School.

       Mrs. Rinker stated that there were over 700 applicants for 400 spots.

       Dr. Bowman inquired how the final decision is made during an appeal process.  Mrs. Rinker advised that the Assistant Director and a Guidance Counselor are the Tech representatives and they are non-partisan, since they are looking at the application, listening to the data fresh.  That is when Dr. Betty Kulick from Bucks County Community College also participates.  A vote is taken after all data is reviewed. 

       Mr. Snyder advised that the number of students accepted from Neshaminy is similar to Pennsbury and Bensalem.  Bristol Township has a substantially different issue because of the wait list, and Neshaminy staff chose to appeal a substantial number of students. 

       Mrs. Butville questioned that if a Neshaminy student moves after 10th grade, does the Neshaminy spot that is vacated go to a Neshaminy student, therefore, obtaining first preference.  Mr. Snyder replied that it would be given to a Neshaminy student.  Mrs. Rinker noted that it is attempted to minimize movement during the course of the school year.  The six principals from the participating high schools meet monthly to discuss various topics.

       Dr. Spitz inquired as to how important is the essay which is required by students when enrolling at Tech.  Mrs. Rinker stated that it is done since it helps give us an idea of the students writing ability and also the placement test, which has nothing to do with being accepted.  The essay, however, does play a role in acceptance.  Mrs. Rinker stated that there is much to learn about a student from the essay.

       Dr. Spitz suggested that a student with an IEP in English might have difficulty with a three hundred-word essay and its puts a higher burden on that student.  Mrs. Jowett and Dr. Spritz stated that the essay is very intimidating. 

       Dr. Bowman stated that the PSSA test now includes writing components and maybe that information could be used to learn something about the student without asking them to write the three hundred-word essay.       

       Mrs. Butville stated that Neshaminy has a writing center where students can go to receive help in writing essays, job interviews, homework, etc. 

      Mrs. Rinker stated that the emphasis on the essay is for the student to tell the Tech School about themselves.

 

      Mr. Mecleary commented to the Board that the Tech budget contribution is approximately half of what was spent last year, based on the enrollment. 

       Dr. Bowman stated that the joint boards and the administration at the Tech School has put together one of the finest Technical High Schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and we are struggling to have more students attend, and there is only so much room.  The good news is that we have quality and it is a wonderful problem to have.  Mr. Snyder stated that the Tech School is the topic of conversation across the United States at the present time. 

       Mr. Eccles stated that he has had the opportunity to tour the school and he is very proud to be associated with the school, and the Board members who have not had the opportunity to tour the school should do so. 

       Mr. Schoenstadt thanked Mr. Snyder, Mr. Butz and Mrs. Rinker for making the information available to the Board. 

b.     2002- 2003 Working Draft of Budget

Dr. Bowman stated that the budget document that the Board will receive represents the work that was started back in October, 200l.  Neshaminy is one of the largest employers in the County and services approximately ten thousand students.  This budget document this evening is a starting point.  Dr. Bowman advised that the Courier Times wrote an article with headlines $400 Tax Increase Forecast and the comment from the Superintendent was as follows: Superintendent Gary Bowman said the draft budget proposal which will be presented tomorrow night is totally unacceptable.  By law we need to bring a budget to the Board at this time of the year and the Board has not seen this budget to date.  The Board will begin their work this evening by getting the information.  The Courier article is a result of the Finance Committee meeting that was held recently at the High School and Mr. Paradise provided an overview to the Finance Committee.  Dr. Bowman further advised that no one is happy with this, including the administration.  Mr. Paradise will present options to the Board to consider.  Neshaminy is in the same position as other school districts and the legislators are looking for some type of relief.  Dr. Bowman advised that $3 million dollars has already been removed from the budget. 

Mr. Paradise advised that there are options to be taken.  Actually $3.7 million dollars in cuts have already been taken to get to this point.  Things to be reviewed this evening:

         Why is the working draft budget so bad?

         What kind of Standard Increases are we looking at

         Human Resources

         Special Education & other State mandates

         Can we delay some expenses?

         Can we reduce some expenses?

         What other options are available to the Board?

Mr. Paradise reviewed why is it so different for schools.

         The vast majority of our income is based on real estate taxes (a stagnant tax base)

         Therefore, schools must get more income by raising the tax rate

         The state, for example, gets the vast majority of its income from sales and personal income taxes (growing tax bases)

         Each year the taxpayer pays more

         As income rises, more income tax is deducted from their payments

         As prices rise, more sales tax is paid

Mr. Paradise noted that schools are people.  Eighty percent of the organization is people, unlike municipal and state governments that provide other services.  Anything associated with a people cost will dramatically affect the budget.

Mr. Paradise advised that all the costs associated with Tawanka School as an elementary school have been removed from this budget.  This is a savings in this current budget document.  At the same time the Board made a decision to open an alternative school in the existing Tawanka Educational Center.  Human Resources and other costs have been added to the budget to pay for that alternative school.  However, it has been offset since we are no longer contracting for some of the services. 

Mr. Paradise advised that the events of September 11, 200l, have dramatically affected this budget

         Higher priced insurances of all kinds

         General economic decline

         Reduced business tax revenues

         Dramatically lowered interest rates

         PSERS retirement fund costs

         Most state governments in deficit

         Federal Government in deficit

Mr. Paradise advised of some of the cost increases:

         2.75% certified staff (plus step)

         3.5% support staff

         l4% projected increase in health insurance premiums

         Similar coverage $l,7l3,000

         $3l4,000 for higher social security taxes on employer

         Dramatic increase in state retirement system payments

Mr. Paradise further advised that there is a loss of interest income:

         July 2000  - 6.2%

         February 200l 5.4%

         July 200l 3.7%

         February 2002 l.8%

Mr. Paradise advised that last year interest rates earned $2.4 million dollars that equates to l5 mills of tax.  This year it reduced to $l.5 million and indeed because the rates have continued to drop we will only earn $l.2 million.  Next year only $900,000 at average 2.5% investment rate. This equates to an increase of taxes by 8 mills alone.

Dr. Spitz noted that this year we earned $l.2 million and next year $900,000 which is a difference of $300,000 which does not equate to 8 mills.  Mr. Paradise advised that the loss of revenue from $2.4 million to $900,000 accounts for 8 mills.

Mr. Paradise advised that the PSERS Employer Contribution Rate History has dramatically declined.  The state has now said it is way to low and it must be increased.  Hopefully, the Board will adopt a motion to attempt to have the state stabilize the rate.  The Retirement System rate is going up to the same rate it was in l998 and l999.  At the same time employees rates have gone up.

Mr. Paradise discussed Expenditure Reductions:

         Comprehensive Technical School decrease of $l,044,000

         Price of Fuel Oil and Diesel Fuel Fixed price for next year

Mr. Paradise stated that Special Education expenditures for 2003 will be $l7,084,000 which is an increase of $l.6 million and an l0.9% increase over the current year.  The state subsidies have not changed at all.  Indeed, the state mandates this but only pays $5,304,000 for a program which costs the district $l7,084,000.

Dr. Spitz inquired how the $l7,084,000 is calculated.  Mr. Paradise advised that the l70 page budget document would explain this.  The purpose of the presentation was just to give an overview.  The details can be found in the budget document.

Mr. Paradise noted other cost increases are as follows:

         Charter Schools 35% increase over current year

         Contracted IU Special Ed Transportation 42% increase

         Contracted Alternative Schools - $1.1 million

         Debt Service Payments - $243,000 more

Mr. Paradise noted that the district pays $6.6 million in total transportation costs and the district receives $2 million back from the state.

Mr. Eccles noted that many numbers are being shown, but we are not showing what is getting reimbursed.  Somewhere the increases are being hidden and we need to look at real numbers. 

Mr. Paradise further presented the 2003 Revenues:

         Local

-          Tax Levies

-          Investment Income

-          Miscellaneous Sources

-          State

-          Basic Subsidies

-          Special Education

-          Specific Program Subsidies

-          Non-Educational Subsidies

-          Local Tax Sources

-          State Sources up 8.5% but only when retirement is included

Mr. Paradise advised that this is the lowest proposed Basic Education Funding increase since l995-l996, 3rd lowest (dollars) in 22 years.

Mr. Paradise not only wanted to present a problem, but also wanted to present some solutions, hence, where do we do from here?

-          Continuously monitor real estate assessments & business tax receipts

-          Monitor Federal Reserve on Investment Rates

-          Seek legislative relief concerning retirement costs

-          Work with health insurance carriers to lower costs

-          Review staffing changes

-          Elimination or reduction of programs and/or services

-          Consider delay of technology expenditures

-          Consider swing loan for capital projects in budget

-          Delay some facility improvements

-          Consider reducing textbook purchases

-          Seek to lower contracted transportation costs for Special Education students

-          Teacher retirements 35 early retirements need to be built in

-          Continue to review use of fund balance - $3,290,000

-          Consider increased use of the new alternative school to further reduce costs

-          Promote tax reform in Pennsylvania

Mrs. Butville inquired whether the district is responsible for transporting its Special Education students.  Mr. Schoenstadt advised that if no transportation was provided for the entire district then we would not have to transport Special Education students. 

Mr. Paradise advised that financially the early retirees have not been accounted for at this time. Mr. Jones advised that the cost savings per retiree would be approximately $l6,000.  Dr. Spitz commented that the average salary of the 35 people retiring is over $80,000.00. Mr. Jones advised that most of the staff are not hired at the first step.  Most staff are long-term subs and they are being hired at a much higher level, somewhere around the $55,000-$56,000 range.   Dr. Spitz inquired if it was part of the contract to hire long-term subs before we hire a new person out of college.  Dr. Bowman advised that the long term subs have been teaching in the district for a period of l/2 year to l year and the time is accumulated. 

Mrs. Butville inquired as to who was actively pursuing securing tenants for the Tawanka facility.  Mr. Paradise advised that the district was doing this.  Mrs. Butville thought that several tenants were interested in renting space.  Mr. Wilson advised that many are interested but not willing to pay. 

Mr. Eccles stated that it was his opinion that the closing of Tawanka was a cost saving measure.  Mr. Schoenstadt responded that it is a savings of $l.2 million. 

Mr. Wilson advised that a commitment was made to the people at Tawanka that certain students would not be placed in our alternative school.  In other words, certain students have been left in other alternative schools.

Mr. Mecleary questioned whether Special Education subsidies were still figured based on the total population of the district as opposed to the total population of special education students within this district.   Mr. Wilson advised that most of the support for the funding formula comes from the smaller districts in the central part of the state that do not identify nearly as many students.  They still receive their special education allocations based on the number of regular education students.  Some districts actually make money, however, not anywhere in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Mr. Paradise provided the Board with a brief overview of the budget document:

         Page l5 Current enrollment numbers

         Page l7 Enrollment projections for next year

         Page 20-23 Certified Staff and Support Staff positions

Dr. Bowman advised that the elementary declining enrollment has been looked into and a number of people needed in elementary, secondary positions were rolled into next year.  The overall K-l2 enrollment and K-l2 staffing were looked at.  As we proceed through April and May the staffing is fine-tuned.  In May we can come back and say what we believe we need at each level. 

         Page 27-28 - Budget calendar

         Page 30-3l Summary of revenues

         Page 32-33 Expenditures

Dr. Bowman added that on pages 32-33 we have actual audited expenditures for l999-2000 and 2000-200l and the proposed budget for 2002-2003.  Three years of data have been supplied.  Actual l999, actual 2000, adjusted budget 200l and the proposed for next year.

Mr. Mecleary left the meeting at 9:l0 p.m.

Dr. Spitz inquired why the adjusted budget total $ll7.2 million was significantly different from the budget number in the last monthly report that was received.  Mr. Paradise responded that federal grants are always added.  Federal programs are totally excluded from the budget.  Mr. Paradise advised that at the last minute prior to the motion the federal programs that we are aware of would be added on that date.  The budget that is adopted this coming June cannot possibly anticipate every grant that is received during the course of the year. 

         Page 35 Effect on tax millage

         Page 36-37 Charts for retirement system

         Page 40 Details local and state revenues

         Page 55 to the end Detailed Expenditures

      Mrs. Butville inquired regarding the Senior Citizen Rebate covered on page 40 and how many seniors does that include.  Mr. Paradise advised that it is changing and that the rebate runs from January l through June 30.  This year more seniors have applied for the program then in any year prior and the Board made a change for seniors effective this year, and more seniors have gotten a higher rebate amount then in any other year.  Mr. Paradise advised that what we are budgeting is truly an estimate, because this years program, someone can apply up until the end of June.  Mr. Paradise advised that we know the number of seniors in the district; however, we have no data on the income. 

Mr. Paradise further advised that in the expenditures every single program that is funded by the general fund is included. 

Mr. Paradise directed the Board members to turn to page l23 Property Services, replacing the F-wing roof at Schweitzer - $530,000, replacing the D-wing roof at Hoover for $250,000, HVAC system at Buck - $350,000 and the boilers at Lower South - $200,000.  Mr. Paradise advised that these were $l.8 million of potential items that we could effectively cut out of the budget, but still do and roll them over into a bond issue.

Dr. Spitz inquired as to the revenues reimbursed by the stated.  Mr. Paradise directed Dr. Spitz to page 53, Subsidies for Paid Benefits, FICA, and Medicare.

Mrs. Butville questioned Mr. Minotti regarding guardrail repair at the High School.  Repairs are necessary due to accidents, vandalism and damage.  The damage is not always collectible due to uninsured motorist.  The only reason why guardrails exist at the High School is because the fields were abused by people driving on them.  Guardrails were a less expensive option than the constant repair of the grounds.

Mrs. Butville inquired whether the fuel costs were at the cheaper rate.  Mr. Paradise advised that this was indeed so. 

Dr. Spitz inquired whether there would be additional revised information available for the next public board meeting.  Dr. Bowman advised that they would be looking for direction from the Board as to their thoughts about a swing loan for capital projects in the budget, purchasing text books over a two year period, instead of paying them all off next year.  At the May work session there will be a complete analysis as to what we can take out of the budget for the 35 retirees, and other options that can be explored.  Dr. Bowman stated that $3.2 million dollars of the Fund Balance is proposed for next years proposed budget.  Dr. Bowman advised that the current Fund Balance is $7.5 million dollars.  At this point we are proposing to use $3.29 million as revenue.  Dr. Bowman advised that the general practice has been to use no more then half so that the following year the other half is available. 

Mr. Eccles stated that he is looking for a ten (l0%) percent reduction across the board.  Mr. Eccles stated that we need to look at capital improvements and a bond issue.  Mr. Paradise responded that in order to save any substantial money ten (l0%) percent of the staff would need to be cut.  Mr. Eccles advised then staffing needs to be looked at.  Mr. Eccles replied that a school was closed, and we are still asking the taxpayers for the largest tax increase in ten years.

Dr. Spitz advised that district wide projections for students are down 220 students across the district, yet our staff, including certified, administrative and support over that same two (2) year period is up by sixteen.  Mr. Paradise responded that five are at the alternative school , the other ten are necessary for additional special education positions, aids, teachers, which are mandated by the state.  Mr. Paradise advised that instead of contracting staff we are hiring our own staff for the alternative school.   

Mr. Schoenstadt advised that the swing loan would be a one-year short-term loan that would be paid off by the revenues from the bond issue. 

Dr. Bowman stated that the ten (l0%) percent is also not acceptable to the administration and the process will be taken line by line and also look at the big items.  Can we do without that, and if cut, what are the ramifications.  This budget is a huge challenge.  The following need to be looked at:

          Capital projects

         What can be taken out and done without

         Continuously look at staffing

         Dialogue with legislators regarding retirement rate

Mrs. Jowett inquired why testing for radon is done.  Mr. Paradise advised that this falls under a state requirement.  Mr. Paradise stated the problem that arises if you do not adhere to environmental issues, next thing you will have are health issues, etc.

Mr. Eccles left the meeting at 9:40 p.m.

Mrs. Butville asked whether the district was looking into insurance rates.  Dr. Bowman advised that the biggest insurance cost is employee insurance, and long term the Board may want to look into the Heintz Foundation.  Hospitals have been signing up to become part of the network.  Districts in western Pennsylvania have been joining the network which is a self-insured insurance program.  The employees would get the same benefits but they would be self-insured.  A complete analysis would be needed to see if self-insurance would be a viable alternative for a district our size with our huge insurance program. 

There was Board consensus to allow the administration to begin investigating the IU option and the Heintz Foundation  to obtain information regarding alternative insurance.

7.   Items for Approval

a.        Overnight Trips

Trip information distributed for the following trips was self-explanatory:

         Future Problem Solving Team Neshaminy High School and Maple Point Middle School, Harrisburg, PA, April 26 & 27, 2002

There was Board consensus for the trip.

b.       Proposed School Calendar for 2002-2003

Mr. Wilson advised of a major change to the calendar that does not affect student days or teacher days.  The second holiday in February would be moved to the spring recess, which enables the students to have entire week off at Easter.  This does not extend the calendar. The Act 80 days are only seven, two of which are on Election Day.  The final day of school would be June l8, 2002.

c.        Resolution concerning retirement rate

Dr. Bowman advised that the Board expressed an interest at the last meeting that a resolution

be developed regarding the retirement rate, and if you so desire, Mr. Paradise will put together a resolution for your approval at the Public Session at the end of the month.

There was Board consensus for the resolution.

d.       Participation in PA Joint Purchasing Council

Mr. Paradise advised that this was a cooperative bid which contains options for maintenance items including roofing per square foot bid work.  This is a statewide joint purchasing council bid that Neshaminy would like to participate in. 

There was Board consensus for the motion to be prepared for the next public meeting.

 e.    Approval of Bids/Budget Transfers

Mr. Paradise reviewed the following bids:

Bid No. 02-22 Emergency Generator for Neshaminy High School Bus Garage

Bid Amount:  $22,578.00

The bid is for one 50 Kw Emergency Power Generator for the Neshaminy High School Bus Garage.   

Bid No. 02-23 Refinishing Wood Floors

Bid Amount:  $l7,03l.00

This bid is for work to be done on gym floors at Neshaminy High (2), Neshaminy Middle, Poquessing Middle, Sandburg Middle, Maple Point Middle, Everitt, and Ferderbar Elementary Schools.  Also, stage floors at Maple Point Middle, Heckman, Hoover, Lower Southampton and Walter Miller Elementary Schools.

Bid No. 02-20 Boiler Replacement at Lower Southampton Elementary School

Bid Amount:  $l63,998.00

This bid is for the replacement of the original boiler.  This is actually a bid with several options.

Lower Bucks County School Authority is contributing $l25,000.00 to this project.  This can be

budgeted for next year and it is in here now, or we can take it out of the budgetary reserve in the current year and cut the entire amount out of next years budget.  The Authority would then be closed and the remainder of the funds, approximately $5,000-$l0,000 would be turned over to the district. There is a recommendation to do a budget transfer out of the reserve account.

             Bid No. 03-10 Medical Supplies

             Bid Amount:  $ll,303.l0

             This bid is for various supplies for school nurses and co-curricular athletics.

Bid No. 03-11 School Agendas

Bid Amount:  $27,246.l5

This bid is for agendas, teacher planners, lesson plans, and record charts for all secondary

schools.  This comes out of the per pupil allocation.  Mrs. Butville inquired whether this could be produced in-house and Dr. Bowman advised that it would not be possible.  Dr. Bowman stated that this impacts on how well a student does in school, the management of time, and recording of assignments.  Dr. Bowman strongly recommends the continuation.

The five bids and one budget transfer report will be presented for approval at the April 23rd Public Meeting.

8.           Items For Information

There were no items presented.

9.           Superintendents Report

Dr. Bowman advised that at the public meeting there will be a presentation for the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.  This award is received by the school district from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).  This award represents the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting and represents a significant achievement by this organization. 

10.   Committee Reports

a.    Educational Development Committee

Mr. Schoenstadt stated that with the Boards consensus he would like to combine the Educational Development and Technology Committees.  These members would now attend one meeting instead of two separate meetings, since many of the issues are overlapping issues and the committee will have more then four (4) members, however it still will only be composed to formulate or develop ideas in order to make recommendations to the Board as a whole.  Not to make decisions.   Mr. Dengler inquired whether you would then have more then five (5) members, and if so this would need to be conferred with the Solicitor.  Mr. Schoenstadt advised that the reason for the change would be to stay more focused and to accomplish more in a shorter period of time.

Mrs. Butville advised that there was an Educational Development meeting prior to this meeting and discussions took place regarding the payment of new textbooks with no finance charges and discussions regarding sports teams acquiring adequate playing time were held.  The committee further discussed updating the computers in the elementary level. 

b.       Educational Foundation

Mr. Dengler reported that the foundation awarded $l5,512 in teacher grants this month.  In order to boost the sales for the tile on the endowment wall the foundation will send letters to the parents of every graduating senior inviting them to remember their childs years at Neshaminy with a plaque.  

c.        Building Utilization/Finance Committee

Minutes of the past two meetings were distributed prior to the meeting.  The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23rd at 6:00 p.m. Ferderbar Elementary School prior to the Public meeting at 8:00 p.m.  Mr. Paradise noted that there was a handout from BASCO and it details many of the issues that were discussed, and everything will be discussed at the public meeting.  Mr. Paradise advised that if the Board wants to stay with the schedule of opening a school by a specific date, answers need to given if it is in accordance with the Boards plan.

Mrs. Butville advised that BASCO wants a decision by the April 23rd Finance meeting to be able to move forward to meet a timetable.  Dr. Spitz inquired whether the committee has decided amongst themselves that there is a desirous date for a school opening.  Mr. Paradise advised that the architect is just trying to keep up with the Boards expectations.  Mr. Paradise advised that if the building is mostly new the date becomes a little less critical then a renovation date, in a sense that if you are building mostly new you dont necessarily have to open the school on a specific date.

Dr. Spitz noted that given the committee has not even made any type of recommendation to the Board as a whole, it is unrealistic to expect the Board to make a decision about a specific option by the end of this month in order to satisfy an informal deadline.  Mr. Schoenstadt advised that there is no deadline, even in the recommendation.  It has not been discussed specifically what the completion date target would be. 

Mr. Paradise advised that their perception of listening to Board members comments was that they were working towards a specific date, but if that is not the case, that is fine.  They are just trying to say that if you are looking towards a certain date, we need to keep the district on schedule.

            Dr. Bowman inquired if the Board would like this to be an agenda item for the next work session. 

            Mr. Schoenstadt advised that the committee needs to come back with recommendations and the Board as a whole can then look at the issue.

            Dr. Bowman commented that he is not a fan of Board committees for exactly what is occurring.  Committees slow down the process.  The committee does a lot of work and then the Board needs to be informed and the work is redone with the entire Board.  More time is expended when committees are used. 

d.       Intermediate Unit Board

No report.

e.        Board Policies Committee

Mrs. Butville advised that the committee has not met since the last meeting. 

Mrs. Butville noted that on April 2nd the legislators meeting took place in Doylestown and David Steil has come up with a tax policy plan.  Mrs. Butville also distributed information from the conference.

Mrs. Butville advised regarding fundraising there is an organization named Americas Schools and they want to go to corporations and have them agree to put this symbol on their products.   Then the schools that agree to work with them in turn will display posters with the symbol and literature will be sent home.  If the school participates, the company will provide a percentage of their sales every quarter.  The district would need to sign up in order to participate.   

f.         Technical School Board

No report provided.

g.       Technology Committee

No report provided.

11.  Future Topics

No future topics were discussed.

12.   Agenda Development for the April 23, 2002 Public Meeting

13.   Correspondence

          There was no correspondence.

14.   Other Board Business

No other board business.

Mr. Dengler moved the meeting be adjourned and Mrs. Jowett seconded the motion.  The Board approved the motion with five ayes.  Mr. Schoenstadt adjourned the meeting at l0:20 p.m.

 Respectfully submitted,

Anita E. Walls
Board Secretary

 

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