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PUBLIC BOARD MEETING MINUTES (WORK SESSION)
NESHAMINY BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS
April 9, 2003

The Neshaminy Board of School Directors met in public session on April 9, 2003 in the Board Room of 
Maple Point Middle School.  The following persons were in attendance:

BOARD MEMBERS:

ADMINISTRATORS:

Mrs. Yvonne V. Butville

Mr. P. Howard Wilson

Ms. Carol A. Drioli

Mr. Harry P. Jones

Mr. Richard M. Eccles
Mr. Steven E. Schoenstadt

Mr. Richard S. Marotto
Mr. Joseph V. Paradise

Mr. Michael A. Soifer*
Dr. William H. Spitz
Mr. Edward T. Stack

Mr. Bruce M. Wyatt

BOARD MEMBER NOT PRESENT:
Mrs. June R. Bostwick
Mrs. Kimberly A. Jowett
   

 OTHERS: Approximately 22 persons from the public, staff and press were present

SECRETARY:
Mrs. Anita E. Walls

 

* arrived at 8:45 p.m.

 

The Annual Neshaminy Employee Recognition Program took place prior to the meeting in the Maple Point Middle School Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. with a vocal presentation provided by the Neshaminy High School Chanticleers under the direction of Roy Nelson.

School Board Candidates present at the meeting were Mrs. Sue Barrett, Mr. Jason Bowman, Mrs. Irene Boyle, and Mrs. Susan Cummings

l.    Call to Order

Mr. Wilson called the meeting to order at 8:05 p.m.

2.       Pledge of Allegiance

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

3.       Announcements

No announcements.

4.       Public Comment

Mr. Wilson noted that public comment would be limited to two minutes per speaker.

Mr. Charles Lauble, Langhorne, PA stated that he made a request back on January 28, 2003 regarding how the systems were working, and he noted that he was a construction and maintenance supervisor for over twenty years and did not feel his request was too demanding.  Mr. Lauble could have generated the information he had requested in less then ten minutes.  Mr. Lauble stated that he received a reply three days later that his request would be taken under consideration.  Mr. Lauble further noted that one good thing came out of the proposal for the new school and three bad things.  People are beginning to look at the system and measure it not only as it pertains to a new school but what has been happening in the past.  The three bad things are that three people that Mr. Lauble was born and raised with are leaving the district, not because of the schools, but the increases in taxes.  Two families are moving to Tennessee, a less costly area of the country to live and one family is moving to Arizona.

Mr. Paradise requested Mr. Lauble to resubmit his request.

Mr. Solis Basen, Langhorne, PA thanked the Board for coming to Flowers Mill.  Mr. Basen noted to speak on the proposed high school would be redundant.  Mr. Basen noted that the Board is listening, however, are they hearing the public.  Please.

Mr. Phil Schieber, Langhorne, PA, Neshaminy taxpayer and former member of the Steering Committee stated the following:

�I have been told by many persons attending the high school informational meetings that the Steering Committee reached a consensus and that they agree that the district should build a new high school.  This is not correct.  The statement on the consensus was qualified.  The qualifications stated, �If money was not a consideration.�  This qualifier is being ignored by those making the presentation to the public.  We also heard that a referendum be placed before the voters before a bond effort is undertaken.  From our point of view it appears that this Board made this decision before the Steering Committee and the informational process started.  We know that you have an edge in this issue, because you have taxing authority and legislative support.  But we the people have not even begun our campaign.  We do have options and you will not like any of them.  We can pay our property taxes into an escrow account, picket all school board meetings, filibuster meetings, picket the construction site, lobby the financial community with anti-bond literature, picket the school and this precedent has already been established, petition to have the Board recalled for failure to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities relative to school maintenance, have the school declared unsafe for use by various enforcement agencies, petition the court for an injunction against the issuance of the bond, or all of the above.  This community cannot afford a tax associated with the bond and pay for the teachers retirement fund shortfall and the maintenance shortfalls of the middle and elementary school facilities, and the existing and future salary investment increases.  Your argument that the new high school will improve property values is ludicrous.  There will be no market for homes with property taxes $5,000 and up, with annual double digit increases.  Stop this irresponsible madness now.  This housing market will be satiated.  You are about to destroy this community.  Stop now.

Mrs. Donna Tull, Levittown, PA, employee of Neshaminy School District works at Samuel Everitt Elementary School has requested the Board to allow Mrs. Kelly to remain as Principal at Samuel Everitt.  Mrs. Tull noted that Mrs. Kelly is a breathe of fresh air and as the year goes on everyone is falling more in love with her and the students are falling more in love with her.  Anything that could be done would be greatly appreciated.

Mr. Paul Schneider, Langhorne, PA noted that at one of the last school board meetings Mr. Schoenstadt ended the meeting with the importance of thinking about the children.  Mr. Schneider noted that these same childrens grandparents may need to move away because they can no longer afford the taxes in the district. Think about the children who will be up routed from nonpublic schools, which they attend, at minimal taxpayers expense, since their parents can no longer afford the tuition and the rising taxes.  Children will not be able to live in this district when they are grownups because of the high tax rate that a high school and project of this magnitude will thrust upon the community.  Mr. Schneider stated that the decisions that are being made are decisions that will carry on for at least one, probably two generations.  Mr. Schneider would appreciate a decision of that magnitude being addressed by a public vote and not by a small group of people.

Ms. Kelly Leipziger, Levittown, PA, 4th grader at Samuel Everitt Elementary School, stated how much everyone loves Mrs. Kelly.  Kelly stated that her school sent letters, however she wanted the Board to know how much Mrs. Kelly means to the students.  Kelly stated that Mrs. Kelly is full of pep and laughter.  Whenever you see her she makes you smile.  Mrs. Kelly has helped Kelly with fractions and this made her feel very special.  When Dr. Abraham left, so did a lot of Kellys friends because they had to go to Schweitzer.  Mrs. Kelly has filled the position ten times over and please consider leaving her at Everitt.

Mrs. Debbie Donaldson, Levittown, PA, read the following letter in support of keeping Mrs. Kelly:

I am writing to express how important I feel it is to keep Dawn Kelly as Principal of Samuel Everitt Elementary School.  I am not only a parent of children who have graduated and currently attend Samuel Everitt, but I am also a Neshaminy School District substitute and I work in the office and with the children at the school.  I am also a member of the PTO.  Mrs. Kelly has been a wonderful addition to Samuel Everitt Elementary.  The transition from Dr. Abraham to Mrs. Kelly went so smoothly I know that the parents and staff were so pleased and relieved.  From the first time Mrs. Kelly introduced herself at Back to School Night everyone was put to ease instantly.  She was clearly an automatic fit to Samuel Everitt.  As a parent I am so happy to see Mrs. Kelly.  She attends all functions at Everitt while making herself visible and available for parents to get to know her.  Mrs. Kelly is very approachable and always willing to listen and resolve any parent issues and concerns.  She has also shown how important the childrens safety is to her.  Mrs. Kelly has gone out to her car and driven to bus stops to solve problems.  As a substitute in the office I have witnessed Mrs. Kelly talking to the children.  They all respect her and they are attached to her.  She is truly an asset to Samuel Everitt Elementary School.  She has certainly proven that she is caring and dedicated and she is the Principal that the school honestly needs.  I really think it would be a mistake to not let her return.  Thank you.

The residents of Flowers Mills requested to be excused due to a residence meeting at Flowers Mill.

Mrs. Butville noted that Mr. Wilson has been very specific regarding the recommendation of the Steering Committee, and if the district could afford same the best idea would be a new high school.  Mr. Wilson noted that Dr. Boccuti provides that information and he reads the recommendation verbatim.

Ms. Drioli stated that the School Board does not have any control over Mrs. Kellys situation.

5.       Item for Discussion 2003 2004 Working Draft of Budget

Mr. Paradise distributed a copy of the 2003-2004 Working Draft of Budget to the Board members.  Mr. Paradise pointed out specific areas of interest to Board Members:

         Page 3-4 Budget Preparation Calendar Work began on November l5, 2002

         Page 9 Basis of Accounting Summary of Accounting procedures

        Page 18-19 Summary of Facilities Additions/Renovations/Acreage/Square Footage/Enrollment

        Page 2l Enrollment Projections 2003-2004

        Page 23 Twenty year enrollment cycle and future enrollment projections

        Page 26 Certified and Administrative Staff Positions By Department/Building

        Page 28                        Support Staff Positions By Department/Building

        Page 32-33            Summary of General Fund Expenditures

                     Instructional Programs

                     Support Services

                     Non-Instructional Programs

                     Facility Improvements

                     Other Financing

      Page 35          10 Year Value/Millage History and 10 Year Fund Balance History

      Page 36-37            Employer Contribution Rate History/Employee Contribution Rate History

Mr. Paradise noted that the Working Draft Budget is $133.8M, which is an increase of $10.2M or 8.3%.  The budget was developed with existing staff and existing collective bargaining agreements.  The bulk of the increases exist in Human Resource Funds.  $8.3M is directly related to Human Resource with salaries requiring $3.3M and health insurance/benefits at $5M.  Mr. Paradise noted that a projected increase of 20% will be attributed to health insurance costs and that equates to $2.7M.  Mr. Paradise noted that the Board should be aware that meetings are occurring regarding these issues.  Social Security will increase 5.6% equating to $5.5M and $1.5M for retirement system.

Mr. Paradise summarized where the $10.2M increases are from:

         Human Resources $8.3M

         Special Education Costs IU - $515,000

         Technical School Tuition - $539,000

         Fuel Oil - $388,000

         Diesel Fuel - $152,000

         Computer Labs Elementary Schools - $500,000

Mr. Paradise noted that revenues are not provided in the Working Draft Budget.  A statewide meeting will be taking place on April 10, 2003, which will hopefully address many of the questions.  The Governors program at this point is not providing specifics or numbers and data cannot be created.

Further, Mr. Paradise noted an incredible decline exists in the Employer Contribution Rate History and the State of Pennsylvania has balanced their budgets over the last six or seven years on the back of the public school employees retirement system.  The state has dramatically reduced the contributions on the part of the school district and the state, saving billions of dollars in the process, to the point where the employer contributions are now .57%.  The figures are way too low and it was done purely to balance the budget of the state.  The district pays 7% for social security. The Employee contributions are well over 7% as a result of changes to the retirement system.   Mr. Paradise noted that there will be an increase with respect to the retirement system, but all it is doing is attempting to get it back where is should have been all along. 

Mrs. Butville noted that when the Administration is going through the budget if they could break down the fuel costs, salaries, etc. and what it equates to in actual dollars.

Dr. Spitz questioned whether there were any other staff changes assumed other then contracted reductions.  Mr. Paradise responded he did not believe there were and the changes would occur in the elementary schools.  Mr. Paradise noted that this does not reflect retirements. 

Mr. Eccles questioned the forecast of students at Tawanka Learning Center.  Mr. Wilson noted that if students from other districts would attend they would be paying tuition to attend.

Mr. Paradise read an excerpt from Governor Rendells Budget Address to the Pennsylvania Legislature on March 25th. 

In the last ten years Pennsylvanias property taxes have increased by an average of 54.9%.  We all know that these taxes have increased to make up for declining state share of public education funding.  The numbers are shocking.  In the Springford School District in Montgomery County, for example, property taxes have increased 185% from 1991.  In the Pocono Mountain School District the increase from 1991 is 114%.  It would be bad enough if these districts were the exception, but unfortunately, they are increasingly the rule when it comes to property tax hikes.  In fact, 40 school districts in Pennsylvania have increased property taxes by more then 100% since 1992.  Another 130 school districts have implemented increases of more then 70% and 255 school districts have been forced to hike property taxes by more then 50% in the last 10 years.

Mr. Paradise noted that Neshaminys taxes have increased by 37% over the last 9 years.  Based on the facts presented by the Governor Neshaminy is below the state average increase and below the majority of school districts statewide. 

Mr. Paradise noted that the future areas of discussions will be:

l.         Monitor Governors proposals for increases in education subsidies

2.        What types of increases in other areas

3.        Revenues

4.        Investment of receipts interest rates are poor having a negative effect

5.        Health insurance issues self-insurance, pre-funding, retrospective funding

6.        Elementary Computer lab issue

7.        Fuel oil bids

8.        Technical School budget/ IU budget

9.        Staff retirements

Ms. Drioli inquired whether the Governor will entertain some type of freeze on property taxes for seniors.  Mr. Paradise stated he is convinced that there will be some type of legislation that will limit the budget increases, however, how that will be implemented is unknown. 

Mr. Wilson stated that he has recently heard public criticism of past Administrations and past Boards which are unjustified.  The Bucks County Economic Development Corporation has awarded Neshaminy School District a gold medal.  Mr. Wilson read: 

Expansion management conducts annual surveys of all school districts nationwide, ranks the responding districts according to criteria such as student performance, teacher excellence and taxpayer value.  The gold medal that Neshaminy has received reflects outstanding performance in each criteria and demonstrates that Neshaminy continues to produce exemplary students for the work force in our area.  Excellence in education is a vital component of successful economic development.  A well educated labor force benefits our outstanding local business community and is an attraction for new business.  Congratulations on this significant achievement.

                                                                        Robert F. Cormack

                                                                        Executive Director

Mr. Wilson noted that the achievement level of Neshaminy is in the 2009-2010 standard level according to No Child Left Behind. 

Dr. Spitz requested that discussion ensue regarding expense initiatives since most Board members have returned their responses.  Dr. Spitz stated the following initiatives were chosen by a majority of the Board members for consideration:

         Eliminate copy center and replace with copy machines at individual schools

         Freeze support staff positions district wide subject to state mandates

         Develop plan for district wide secretarial pool

         Develop plan for middle school certified staff to teach a full 25 periods a week

         Lead teachers teaching 15 periods

         Faculty manager

         Staffing at high school

         Providing transportation to special education students in house rather then contracting out

Mr. Paradise advised that the district is looking into whether it is financially advantageous to place copy machines into the individual schools. 

Mr. Paradise also advised that the transportation of special education students is also being examined at this time. 

Mr. Eccles inquired as to the balance of the fund balance.  Mr. Paradise stated that the audited fund balance as of June 30, 2002 was $7.6M, however, in the current year budget 2002-2003 it was stated that $2.3M of that amount to balance the budget and not levy taxes for that amount.  Mr. Paradise advised that the district under expends and, hopefully, over receives, and that is how money is added to the fund balance.  One of the things that negatively affects the fund balance is current interest rates being very low and a bad economy. 

Mr. Eccles inquired as to whether the assessment of the budget is accurate.  Mr. Paradise stated that it is accurate as of today.  The budget is a public process, which is ongoing.  Mr. Wilson noted that what is seen in the working draft is realty with regards to what the contracts are costing.  However, the revenues are not being taken into consideration.

Mr. Soifer commented that legitimately $2M will be needed to be added for maintenance of the buildings and that is critical.  Mr. Soifer noted that bond issues are not meant to be for normal, standard maintenance.  Discussion ensued amongst Board members regarding the maintenance issues and whether shortfalls exist in the budget regarding maintenance.  Mr. Paradise noted that shortfalls have occurred for years regarding maintenance and regular maintenance needs to occur every year.  Mr. Paradise would like to see a capital contribution to be designated for maintenance.

Dr. Spitz noted that at the Finance Meeting there was consensus to put forth a plan to do the following.  Put additional money into the bond issue to cover the capital needs and funding of maintenance for the next 3-5 years and in the meantime invest money into a capital reserve fund.  Mr. Soifer suggested that the district start right now putting money away into a capital reserve account.  Dr. Spitz noted that at the informational meetings it was the consensus of the public that they want the district to properly fund the maintenance of the buildings so they do not fall into disrepair. 

There was Board consensus to have Mr. Paradise look into what is involved in setting up a capital reserve fund.

Mr. Wilson advised the Board of the following:

         The district is freezing support staff positions.

         The secretarial pool concept is done at the district offices; however, it is virtually impossible to use that concept at the high school due to the location of the offices. 

         The junior high way of running a middle school needs to be addressed by the Educational Development Committee and be reviewed.  

         The faculty manager position is resolved due to a resignation.

         The lead teachers in the core areas spend most of their time regarding PSSA testing and aligning the curriculum with standards.  If the lead teachers return to two periods there can be a savings of approximately $l70,000.

         The copy center concept will be explored

Mr. Schoenstadt questioned the enrollment at the Tawanka Learning Center and stated that it was guaranteed that for the first year we would not bring students from other districts even if they met the criteria.  Mr. Schoenstadt reminded that it was stated that the facility was to be a profit center.  Mr. Schoenstadt requested to see the projections for using the staff that exists now and bringing in an additional 38 students to bring the enrollment to 52 students.  What staff additions would be necessary to bring in an additional 30-40 students.  Monies need to be generated and as we begin to speak about the revenue portion of the budget we can begin to incorporate that building as a profit center without changing the districts criteria.

Mr. Soifer inquired if students are allowed into the facility from other districts, does the district loss some control of their criteria because of protection under the confidentiality act.  Mr. Wilson responded that if the district contracts out to other students special education students will not be accepted from another district.  Mr. Wilson stated that the district can put into the agreement with other districts that if the student accepted is not up to the districts standards and meets our behavior expectations they will return to the sending district.

Ms. Drioli suggested turning the facility into a Charter School and the district should look into that concept.  Mr. Wilson suggested that the solicitor should look into the legalities of the situation.

Dr. Spitz raised a concern regarding the 2002-2003 figures.  Mr. Paradise noted that they are the adjusted budget with the federal programs removed and any budget transfers that have been approved by the Board to date.  Dr. Spitz is concerned about over-budgeting in the support area and it has nothing to do with providing programs or services.  Mr. Paradise advised that he will provide the details and under spending is an accomplished.  The district zero base budgets and builds from zero up.  The Administration makes a very strong effort to protect the Board by not getting too close to the budget, because were that to occur the Board would be in a troublesome position.  Mr. Paradise noted that every account is analyzed to see were the budgeting was off. 

Dr. Spitz requested more details regarding what was budgeted and what was actually spent.  Mr. Paradise advised that such detail can be provided to the Board.   Mr. Paradise further advised that accounting, state requirements and auditing requirements necessitate that federal programs and other programs be included.

Mr. Wilson noted that Mr. Jones is in contact with the insurance representatives and hopefully there may be some more options that can be provided to the Board at the next meeting.

Mr. Eccles questioned whether all the contracts, whether it be for fuel, oil, gas, health insurance, etc. are bid every year.  Mr. Paradise noted that health insurance is not bid annually. 

Mr. Wilson noted that Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Personal Choice are specifically named in the contracts.  Mr. Wilson advised that does not make them very competitive.  Mr. Eccles noted that Aetna is comparable and they also have a step up option.

Mr. Schoenstadt advised that a clause in the contract exists whereat the Board committee and a committee of the union can get together and examine the options.

Mrs. Butville suggested whether it would beneficial to speak with other districts and try to get a county wide insurance package, which would include districts throughout the county and attract better rates.  Mr. Jones noted that has been looked into and problems exist with that concept since other districts are in worse condition then Neshaminy. 

6.        Items for Approval

a)      Overnight Trips

i)             State Bowl for Future Problem Solving Neshaminy Middle, Maple Point Middle, Neshaminy High School to Harrisburg April 25-26, 2003

ii)             History Club Trip Neshaminy High School to Boston/Newport May 16-18, 2003

iii)            Mid Atlantic Wheelabrator Symposium Poquessing Middle School to Harrisburg May 27-28, 2003

Mr. Wyatt noted that trips to New York, Baltimore, Washington, and Williamsburg have been canceled, but are being rescheduled.

There was board consensus for the students to attend.

b)      IU#22 Special Education Contracted Services for 2003 2004

This will be presented on the agenda for approval at the April 22, 2003 Public meeting.  Mr. Wilson has requested Dr. Muenker to research whether the district can operate some of its own programs within the district. 

c)   Bid/s Budget Transfers

Information distributed prior to the meeting.  Mr. Paradise reviewed the following bids:

Bid No. 04-02 Athletic/Physical Education Supplies

Bid Amount:  $92,092.48

The bid is for supplies for physical education programs and various team sports for school year 2003/2004.

Bid No. 04-03 Technology Education Supplies

Bid Amount:  $12,324.28

The bid is for supplies for the instruction of industrial technology including design, problem solving and research and development for school year 2003/2004.

      Bid No. 04-05 School Agendas

      Bid Amount:  $22,309.76

      The bid is for agendas and teacher planners for all secondary schools.

      Bid No. 04-06 Transportation Parts Supplies

      Bid Amount:  $110,2l4.18

      The bid is for various supplies for maintenance of District vehicles for school year 2003/2004.  Quantities on this bid are estimated.  The actual quantities purchased may vary from this estimate but will not exceed the total recommended for award.

The four bids and Budget Transfer Report No. 03-6 (working copy) will be presented for approval at the April 22nd Public Meeting.

7.      Superintendents Report

None.

8.   Committee Reports

a.   Board Policies

Mrs. Butville advised that a meeting will be scheduled shortly regarding policies concerning No Child Left Behind.

b.     Educational Development

Dr. Spitz advised a meeting was held and discussion ensued regarding elementary computer labs.  The estimated costs for the labs were $409,600 for eight schools.  The concern raised was whether the elementary schools needed to be rewired to accommodate the new labs.  Mr. Paradise advised that the electrical upgrades would be approximately $500,000.

c.           Facilities/Finance Committee

Mr. Soifer advised that a meeting was held.  Specifically, capital improvements were discussed and how that funding would be possible.

d.      Intermediate Unit Board

No report.

e.    Educational Foundation

No report. 

f.         Technical School Board

Mrs. Butville advised that the graduation is scheduled for June 13, 2003.  The tech school trips have not yet been canceled.  Two mobile computer labs are in use with 30 lap tops each.  Technology plan is two years ahead of time and $2M under budget.  Teachers need to justify why they want to use the computer.  Tech person has an in-service day for any teacher in the school who wants computer knowledge.  The support staff contract is ongoing.  The budget process is also underway. 

g.   Technology

Mr. Stack advised that a meeting was held on March 26, 2003 and major points discussed were the elementary computer labs.  The Hoover School was discussed, library additions at each elementary library and finally, wireless technology on an experimental basis.  Dr. Boccuti will be distributing an updated breakdown of the PCs within the district.

9.       Future Topics

10.  Agenda Development for the April 22, 2003 Public Meeting

1l.      Correspondence

No correspondence was received. 

12.  Other Board Business

Mrs. Butville advised that the National School Boards Association held its conference.  The main emphasis was on No Child Left Behind.  Other topics discussed were school safety and security, raising and tracking student achievement and passing bond issues and obtaining community involvement.  Ms. Drioli advised that a seminar she attended was regarding No Child Left Behind and it was designed to have the public school system fail, hence charter schools and voucher systems were put into place.

 

Ms. Drioli would like the senior projects to include documentation of the seniors experiences through World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, etc.  Some students could be using the senior project as a way to meet and discuss issues with the senior citizen community.  Ms. Drioli also suggested a service to senior citizens, such as managing yards, removing large trash items, bushes trimmed, etc. could be performed by the seniors at the high school and make same part of the senior project.

 

Ms. Drioli advised that a documentary will be aired on the History Channel by a gentlemen from Haegen Construction.  Mr. Haegen advised that he would come to the district and speak with the students and provide to them information regarding producing videos, tapes, etc.

 

13.   Adjournment of Meeting

Mr. Schoenstadt moved the meeting be adjourned and Mr. Soifer seconded the motion.  The Board voted to adjourn the meeting with seven ayes.  Mr. Wilson adjourned the meeting at 10:30 p.m.

 Respectfully submitted,

Anita E. Walls
Board Secretary

 
 

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