2015-09-01 Cedarbrook Architect Presentation/Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings
2015-08-11 Regular Legislative Meeting: Cedarbrook Cost Exceeds $50 Million
At this meeting, Dr. Wagner Marseille announced that, "The original budget that has been proposed (for Cedarbrook) by the board of 50 million Dollars—we are over that budget based on the schematic design that was shared with us by the architects. And programming had a large part to do with that...."
Prior to posting this podcast, I checked with the other "stakeholder group" that does not seem to matter in this process: the taxpayers. Specifically, I checked on those who are unfortunate enough to have been hauled into court for not paying their school tax. Looking at the Cheltenham School District July/August Municipal Liens listed on the Montgomery County Court website, I found a bumper crop of cases.
One of Montco July tax cases (Case #2015-15473) involves an individual with the same name as a current member of the Cheltenham School Board. It is NOT confirmed that a member of the Cheltenham School Board is suffering in court from a tax lien, but if it is true we can only hope that it inspires the rest of the board to keep the costs of Cedarbrook from increasing the sad harvest of tax liens..
(click on the "Continue without logging in" link to view the case)
2015-08-04 Facilities/Finance Committee Meetings-- Cedarbrook: Architectural Mission Creep ?
The Facilities Committee Meeting features a presentation by the architects on the Cedarbrook reconstruction project (Unfortunately, a link to this presentation was not available at press time). As usual the building and site plan was discussed in eye-glazing detail. We were assured that the design is evolving with input from "stakeholder groups."
A member of the public, Mr. Fred Milbert, asked a simple question: What is the total square footage of the project ? The answer was: "I don't know."
So the architects— who just showed a detailed layout of every floor of the building, as well as driveways and landscaping— could not calculate the project total square footage ?
One useful function that the square footage number performs is it helps detect whether architectural mission creep is blowing the budget. It is a vital number needed by the one stakeholder group that does not appear to have a voice in this process: the people that have to pay for Cedarbrook.
Your podmaster has broken the public comments section of the Facilities Meeting where Mr. Milbert asks his questions into a separate recording which is recommended listening.
2015-07-21 Special Meeting
Just when Cheltenham Taxpayers thought they were finished paying two
school superintendent salaries (ex-Superintendent Dr. Natalie Thomas
has finally received the last of her $180,000 yearly salary as of 6/30/2015), approval was given at this meeting to retain the services of
Acting Superintendent Dr. William Kiefer,"as a consultant for real estate matters." It was not stated at the meeting how long Dr. Kiefer will remain.
This meeting was the first one of new Superintendent Dr. Wagner Marseille.
Montco School Tax Comparison Update
The district has made a big deal that other districts in the County
have had to raise school taxes. For example, this slide from the 6/2/15 Finance Committee Meeting:
Lest you worry that the other districts may catch up to Cheltenham-- having the dubious honor of the highest school tax rate in the county--- the chart shown below of all Montgomery County municipal school taxes as a percentage of Cheltenham's (as of 6/14/2015) shows they have much catching up to do.
The top 5 rates below Cheltenham are:
|Tax Rank||Municipality||Tax on $143K Median||Mills||% of Cheltenham Tax|
|5||West/East Norriton & Norristown||$4658||32.5720||73.17%|
2015-06-09 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings
2015-05-12 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings
The Quiet Disapperance of Dr. Bramucci
The majority of this board meeting recording is the annual "retirement meeting" where extensive reminiscences of the retiring staff members are dwelled upon in detail. There is however appears to be a stark contrast when the staff member held an administrative position under the "previous regime."
Dr. Bramucci served as "Director of School Improvement Processes," a position approved at the April 8, 2014 Regular Legislative Board Meeting with an annual 2014-2015 salary of $130,000. Dr. Thomas was the superintendent at the time.
Flash forward to the February 10, 2015 Regular Legislative Board Meeting when the board voted for the "elimination of the position of Director of School Improvement Processes effective June 30, 2015 end of workday."
So at this meeting, the board voted to accept the "resignation" of Dr. Bramucci, Director of School Improvement Processes, effective May 4, 2015 (which was quite convenient since the position terminates on June 30, 2015).
The question from a taxpayer perspective is: Did we need a $130,000 "Director of School Improvement Processes" in the first place ?
2015-05-05 Cedarbrook Middle School Rebuild Design Concepts Meeting
Abington Proud vs Cheltenham Proud
At last Tuesday's board meeting, it was mentioned that some township residents were getting annoyed by the large number of "Proud to be in Abington" bumper stickers seen driving through our township and that a "Cheltenham Proud" response would be forthcoming.
I thought it would be interesting to compare the School Performance Profile, Building Level Academic Score (BLAS) between Abington and Cheltenham to compare bragging rights:
|97.8||Abington SD||Highland School|
|93.7||Abington SD||Abington Senior High Sch|
|93.1||Abington SD||Rydal East School|
|91.3||Cheltenham SD||Cedarbrook MS|
|90.9||Cheltenham SD||Glenside El Sch|
|88.5||Abington SD||Roslyn School|
|87.4||Abington SD||McKinley School|
|87.2||Abington SD||Overlook School|
|87.0||Abington SD||Abington JHS|
|86.2||Abington SD||Willow Hill School|
|85.7||Abington SD||Copper Beech|
|85.1||Cheltenham SD||Myers El Sch|
|80.3||Cheltenham SD||Cheltenham EL|
|74.0||Cheltenham SD||Cheltenham High Sch|
|72.1||Cheltenham SD||Elkins Park Sch|
There is one area in which Cheltenham has the highest "score" in the county:
|School District||School Mills||Tax Bill on $143K Assessed Home|