Cedarbrook/Elkins Park Construction Finance Options Infographic



2014-12-21Cedarbrook/Elkins Park Construction Option Notes

The financial briefing concerning the Cedarbrook/Elkins Park Construction Project groups the eight construction options (discussed below) organized as the following tax increase projections:

Finance ScenarioMillage Increase
Options 1 & 42.5 mills
Options 2 & 53.42 mills
Option 33.19 mills
Option 63.51 mills

We have calculated the impact of these increases in the following infographic:

2014-12-15 Facilities Committee Meeting Construction Finance Briefing Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-12-15Live Recording


This meeting concerned construction options for Cedarbrook and Elkins Park Schools. The following eight options were laid out:

OptionDescriptionLow EstimateHigh Estimate
1Renovation of Cedarbrook Middle School + 20K ft²$46,188,057.75$48,902,846.55
2New Cedarbrook Middle School at Existing Site$67,181,921.45$70,995,914.80
3New Cedarbrook & Elkins Park School at existing Cedarbrook Site$108,631,398.50$114,876,278.20
4Elkins Park School Renovation + 10K ft².$37,618,248.55$39,732,065.35
5New Elkins Park School at Elkins Park site$49,682,609.25$52,623,666.10
6New Cedarbrook & Elkins Park School at New Site (300K ft².)$105,755,000.00$116,790,000.00
7New Cedarbrook Middle School at New Site (200K ft²)$72,797,500.00$81,835,000.00
8New Elkins Park School at New Site (100K ft²)$34,355,000.00$36,380,000.00

The first recording is an excerpt from Part 1 of the Facilities recording where the tax increases for some of these options were laid out.

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-12-151Facilities Committee Meeting Construction Finance Briefing
2014-12-152Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-12-153Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-12-15Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-12-15Facilities Committee Cbk Options

2015-16 Cheltenham School Tax Infographic



Whenever a tax increase is proposed at a Cheltenham meeting, it is usually described as a 3 figure amount on the median home assessment. The new Finance Director, Cara Michaels, has at least listed the higher yearly tax amount on that median home in her recent financial reports.

Fortunately, it appears that the service neutral tax increase of 4.3% is off the table. The two remaining options are:

  • Act 1 Max Index (1.9% Tax Increase)
  • Budget Neutral (0% Tax Increase)

While using the model of the median home, there is never a discussion of the effective Cheltenham School tax rate on the median income. Moreover, there has never been any discussion of the impact of Cheltenham taxes on seniors living on fixed incomes or other vulnerable groups.

Introducing our First Annual Cheltenham School Tax Infographic:

The chart comparing the Cheltenham Tax with the other Montgomery County school taxes has been updated with the Act 1 Max Index increase:

2014-12-09Source Documents and Notes

DateWeb Link
2014-12-09(1) Based on a monthly benefit of $1,451 which is the highest benefit listed in Page 20, Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2014
2014-12-09(2) Based on US Census Bureau series: "Income of Households by State Ranked from Highest to Lowest Using 3-Year-Average Medians" for Pennsylvania $52768
2014-12-09(3) Based on statement from PA Department of Labor and Industry: "Your Weekly Benefit Rate should equal about one-half of your full-time weekly wage"
2014-12-092015-16 Tax Infographic PDF
2014-12-09PDF Chart: Montgomery County Township School Taxes as a percentage of Cheltenham's
2014-12-09Spreadsheet: Montgomery County Township School Taxes as a percentage of Cheltenham's
2014-12-09Spreadsheet GPG signature.

2014-12-09 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-12-09Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-12-091Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-12-092Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-12-09Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-12-09Meeting Agenda
2014-12-09Nov 2014 Revenue Summary
2014-12-09Nov 2014 Exp Summary
2014-12-092015-2016 Adacemic Calendar FINAL
2014-12-09Extra Duty-Mentors-Volunteers 12 9 14
2014-12-09Budget Transfers 12-2014

2014-12-02 Cedarbrook Project Facilities Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-12-02Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-12-021Cedarbrook Project Facilities Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-12-022Cedarbrook Project Facilities Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-12-02Cedarbrook Project Facilities Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-12-02Agenda Facilities 12 2 14
2014-12-02December 2014 Facility

2014-12-02 Board Reorganization/Facilities and Financial Meetings in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-12-02Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-12-021Board Reorganization Meeting
2014-12-022Financial Meeting
2014-12-023Facilities Meeting

2014-12-02Board Reorganization/Facilities/Financial Meetings Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-12-02Agenda Financial Affairs 12 2 14
2014-12-02Financing for Current Projects

2014-11-11 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-11-11Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-11-111Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-11-112Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-11-11Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-11-11Oct 2014 Exp Summary
2014-11-11Oct 2014 Revenue Summary
2014-11-11907 Visitors 11 11 14 ADOPTED
2014-11-11806 Child-Student Abuse 11 11 14 ADOPTED second read
2014-11-11121.1P Student Trips Outside the US 11 11 14 First Read
2014-11-11Extra Duty Extra Pay mentors-leadership-volunteers 11 11 14
2014-11-11Budget Transfers 11 11 14

2014-10-28 Budget Workshop Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-10-28Live Recording


This meeting presents important information regarding the preliminary 2014-15 budget. The presentation is organized with three separate scenarios:

  • Service Neutral (4.3% tax increase)
  • Act 1 Index (1.9% tax increase)
  • Budget Neutral (0% tax increase)

The "Service Neutral" increase would peg the School Tax millage to 45.5636. This would further push Cheltenham roughly 14% above the closest MONTCO district millage rate as shown in the following chart: montco-school-tax-millage-Service-Neutral2014-15-web.png(click for enlarged version)

The spreadsheet that generated the chart is available here.[SIG] The data was directly imported into OpenOffice™ from the Montgomery County web site.

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-10-281Budget Workshop Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-10-282Budget Workshop Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-10-28Budget Workshop Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-10-282015-2016 Budget Process Overview – 10/7/2014
2014-10-282014 Montgomery County School Tax Rates Spreadsheet
2014-10-28Spreadsheet GPG Signature

2014-10-14 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-10-14Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-10-142Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-10-141Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-10-14Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-10-14Sept 2014 Revenue Summary
2014-10-14Sept 2014 Exp Summary
2014-10-14P907 Visitors 10 14 14 First Read
2014-10-14P806 Child-Student Abuse 10 14 14 redlined First Read
2014-10-14Extra Duty Extra Pay mentor-stipends-tenure 10 2014

2014-10-07 Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-10-07Live Recording


The podmaster recommends Part 2 of the Finance Committee Meeting recording where David Cohen , a local activist, presents a concept called PROSPER. The concept is to create a municipal authority to assess property owners a fee to pay for school district debt. PROSPER is a committee that was started in late 2013 by Mr. Cohen and the former business manager of the school district Matt Malinowski.

Since a municipal authority can tax all residents, the idea is to spread the school tax burden onto a broader base to provide relief to homeowners. The municipal authority will only collect on school debt, the money would not be used for general operations. All tax exempt properties in the township would pay this new public school debt "fee" including:

Why is such an extreme measure being proposed ? According to Mr. Cohen, Cheltenham has the 12th highest tax burden in the state. This tax burden is not the product of wild growth in the number of students– the OpenPAGov.org database shows that over the 10 year period from 2002-12, student enrollment has declined by 9% while taxes have increased 26.8%. Reflecting this, the data also shows that in terms of taxes collected per student, Cheltenham has the 6th highest tax burden in Pennsylvania.

Moreover, it was suggested that the Municipal Authority could be used as a gimmick to circumvent the already weak taxpayer protections provided by Pennsylvania's Act 1. There is a good explanation of the Act 1 limits in Part 1 of the Finance Committee Meeting.

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-10-071Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-10-072Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2
2014-10-073Facilities Committee Meeting

2014-10-07Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-10-07OpenPAGov.org Tax Collected per Student data from 2012
2014-10-07OpenPAGov.org Cheltenham Student Enrollment vs. Tax Rate.
2014-10-07facilities committeeoctober_2014

Was Cheltenham Dropped from Washington Post High School Challenge ?



Every year at the September meeting, the big Washington Post High School Challenge banner that sits behind the board members is updated for the current year. This year, it did not happen. I checked the Washington Post website and found out why: Cheltenham is no longer listed. The table below lists the national 2014 Challenge schools in alphabetical order:

278ChattahoocheeJohns CreekGA3.897
1831Chavez Learning AcademiesSan FernandoCA1.347
672Cherokee TrailAuroraCO
685Cherry CreekGreenwood VillageCO2.646
2009Cherry Hill EastCherry HillNJ1.150
1881Cherry Hill WestCherry HillNJ1.285
2122ChesapeakeBaltimore CountyMD1.022
862Cheyenne MountainColorado SpringsCO2.369

Since Cheltenham was ranked 1119 in the 2013 listing, it is hard to believe that CHS dropped off the list because of performance. Stay Tuned.

2014-09-13Washington Post High School Challenge Links

YearWeb Link
2014USA Rankings
2013USA Rankings
2014Northeast Region Rankings
2013Northeast Region Rankings
2013Last Year's Cheltenham Listing

2014-09-09 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-09-09Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-09-091Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-09-092Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-09-09Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-09-09Regular Agenda
2014-09-09Agenda with Secret Files
2014-09-09Expense Summary 9 9 14
2014-09-09Revenue summary 9 2014
2014-09-09Extra Duty-Extra Pay and Horizontal Move 9-9-14

2014-09-02 Special Board/Facilities and Business Affairs Meetings in 4 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-09-02Live Recording


The podmaster recommends the Business Affairs recording. There is a discussion of "the Capital Reserve Fund" which now holds over $5 million. At least one board member did not know we had a "Capital Reserve Fund." Certainly the revelation of $5 million squirreled away after taxes were recently increased might cause some resentment. The real issue that should cause resentment is that the district does not publish a capital budget. The lack of a capital budget means that uses of the tens of millions being raised by bond issues is not being reported properly to the taxpayers.

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-09-021Special Board Meeting
2014-09-022Facilities Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-09-023Facilities Meeting Part 2 of 2
2014-09-024Business Affairs Meeting

2014-09-02Special Board and Facilities and Business Affairs Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-09-02Special Meeting Agenda
2014-09-022014-2017 Capital Project Financing – 9/2/2014
2014-09-02Food Service Update – 9/2/2014
2014-09-02Agenda Facilities 9/2/14
2014-09-02Agenda Business Affairs 9/2/14
2014-09-09September 2014 Facility

Moody's Downgrades Pennsylvania

Permalink2014-08-05State Finance


From Moody's [21 Jul 2014]: "The downgrade of the general obligation rating to Aa3 reflects the commonwealth"s growing structural imbalance, exacerbated by the fiscal 2015 enacted budget that depends on non-recurring resources; a weak GAAP balance position that will further deteriorate based on the budget's one-time measures; and the expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania"s ability to regain structural balance in the near term."

Here is a short introduction to Pennsylvania's Pension Crisis from the Commonwealth Foundation:

2014-08-12 Regular Legislative Meeting

Permalink2014-08-12Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-08-121Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2014-08-12Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-08-12June 2014 Expense Summary
2014-08-12June 2014 Revenue
2014-08-12July 2014 Expense Summary
2014-08-12July 2014 Revenue Summary
2014-08-12Extra Duty-Extra Pay 8 12 14
2014-08-12Budget Transfers - August 2014

2014-08-05 Business and Facilities Committee Meetings in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-08-05Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-08-051Business Committee Meeting
2014-08-052Facilities Committee Meeting

2014-08-05Business and Facilities Committee Meetings Selected Documents

Note: Facilities Committee meetings for June-August of 2014 have not been posted.

DateWeb Link
2014-08-05Facilities Agenda
2014-08-05Business Affairs Agenda
2014-08-05SDCT Transportation Overview

CSD Document List Feb-July 2014



2014-08-05CSD Document List Feb-July 2014

Thank you to everyone who emailed during my recent illness. Unfortunately, the district has not posted minutes for many of the meetings that I missed. While I can't provide recordings, I am providing this consolidated table of documents that saves you the trouble of navigating the district's web maze.

NOTE: In April of 2014, Auditor General DePasquale released his latest audit of the Cheltenham School district. He found two new problems with all previous issues addressed. His report is available at this link

Date/MeetingWeb Link
20140717 Special BoardMeeting Agenda
20140717 Special BoardCurr team-EDEP-SS staffing 7 17 14
20140624 Special Boardspecial board minutes 6 24 14
20140624 Special BoardMeeting Agenda
20140610 Regular Boardlegislative minutes 6 10 14
20140610 Regular BoardMeeting Agenda
20140610 Regular BoardMay 2014 Revenue Summary
20140610 Regular BoardMay 2014 Exp Summary
20140610 Regular BoardExtra Duty-Summer School-ESY 6 10 14
20140610 Regular BoardBudget Transfers 06.10.14
20140527 Facilitiesfacilities committee_may2014
20140513 Regular Boardlegislative minutes 5 13 14
20140513 Regular BoardMeeting Agenda
20140513 Regular BoardApril 2014 Exp Summary
20140513 Regular BoardApril 2014 Revenue Summary
20140513 Regular BoardMEMORANDUM-SOLICITOR SERVICES 2014-2015 (00889607)
20140513 Regular BoardEXTRA DUTY AND VOLUNTEERS 5 13 14
20140513 Regular Board2013-2014 Calendar - Revised - 4-29-30
20140513 Regular BoardBudget Transfers 5 13 14
20140506 Special BoardProposed Final Budget 201415
20140506 Special Boardspecial board mtg minutes 5 6 14
20140422 Special BoardMeeting Agenda
20140422 Special Boardspecial board minutes 4 22 14
20140410 Special Boardspecial board minutes 4 10 14
20140410 Special BoardMeeting Agenda
20140408 Regular Boardlegislative minutes 4 8 14
20140408 Regular BoardMeeting Agenda
20140408 Regular BoardMarch 2014 Revenue Summary
20140408 Regular BoardMarch 2014 Exp Summary
20140408 Regular BoardEDEP 4 8 14 Agenda Final
20140408 Regular BoardBudget Transfers 04 08 14
20140401 Budget WorkshopProposed-Final-Budget-Presentaiton-14152
20140401 Facilitiesfacility planning
20140325 Special BoardMeeting Agenda
20140311 Regular Boardlegislative minutes 3 11 14
20140311 Regular BoardMeeting Agenda
20140311 Regular BoardRevenue summary 3 11 2014
20140311 Regular BoardExpenditure Summary 3 11 14
20140311 Regular BoardExtra Duty-Extra Pay and Volunteers
20140311 Regular Board2014-2015 academic calendar - REVISED FINAL 3 11 14
20140311 Regular BoardDRAFT Adacemic Calendar 2015-2016 REVISED FINAL 3 11 14
20140311 Regular BoardBudget Transfers 03 11 14
20140304 Businessbusiness minutes 3 4 14
20140304 Facilitiesfacilities minutes 3 4 14
20140304 Facilitiesmarch_2014 facility
20140304 Facilitiesengagement_committee
20140211 Regular Boardlegislative board minutes 2 11 141
20140211 Regular BoardExpense Summary 2 11 14
20140211 Regular BoardRevenue summary 2 11 14
20140211 Regular Board2014-2015 academic calendar - February 11 14
20140211 Regular BoardDRAFT Preliminary Adacemic Calendar 2015-2016
20140211 Regular BoardExtra Duty Extra Pay and Salary Increases 2 11 14
20140204 Businessbusiness minutes 2 4 14
20140204 Facilitiesfacilities _feb_2014 presentation
20140204 Facilitiesfacilities minutes 2 4 14

2014-04-19 Budget Analysis: CSD Debt Explosion

2014-04-19Budget Analysis


I took a look at the April 1st Business Affairs Committee Presentation Having seen school district powerpoints over the years, one can expect detailed graphs when it suits their agenda (e.g. the chart pointing out the costs of charter schools) and charts without a single data label when it doesn't (e.g. the chart illustrating the failures of ObamaCare).

I converted two of the tables in the powerpoint (projected 2014-19 revenues and expenditures) into a spreadsheet ({spreadsheet link},{gpg sig}) and started looking at the numbers. The two main cost drivers built-in to the projections are Debt Service (raising 1382% over 2014-19) and Benefits (raising 56% over 2014-19). Year 2019 Salaries are projected to increase only two percent over 2014 levels: good luck with that one.


On the revenue side, local real estate tax revenue is projected to increase from $73 million to $86 million. While the increase might be projected from the increased "value of a mil," one wonders what the plan will be if the recession resumes and real estate prices stagnate.

CSDRevenueFromREtax2014-2019 ProjectedRevenue2019PercentOver2014

2014-04-15 Podcast Update



We are still dealing with the complications of major surgery, and will not be able to resume the podcast until May at the earliest.

2014-03-05 Podcast Update



Due to a recent illness, the podcast has been suspended for February and March of 2014. I hope to resume the podcast in April. I apologize for any inconvenience.

2014-02-04 Cedarbrook Relocation and Special Board Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-02-04Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-02-041Cedarbrook Relocation and Special Board Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-02-042Cedarbrook Relocation and Special Board Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-02-04Cedarbrook Relocation and Special Board Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-02-04Meeting Agenda

2014-01-14 Regular Legislative Board Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-01-14Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-01-141Regular Legislative Board Meeting Part 1 of 2
2014-01-142Regular Legislative Board Meeting Part 2 of 2

2014-01-14Regular Legislative Board Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2014-01-14Dec 2013 Revenue Summary
2014-01-14Dec 2013 Expense Summary
2014-01-14Budget Transfers

Cheltenham Township School District Proposed 2014-15 Tax Increase

Permalink2014-01-07Live Recording


On 1/7/14, the school district released its preliminary budget estimate for 2014-15. The estimate includes a 3.39% tax increase– or what the district called a $17.32 per month tax increase on the "median household."

The presentation did not include the amount that the median household would pay per year: On a $145,000 home assessment that homeowner is presently paying a yearly tax of $6135. The proposed tax increase will increase the yearly bill to $6343 per year.

So what is a "median household ?" What impact does a $6343 tax bill have on this household ?

According to the census bureau the 2012 Pennsylvania median household income was $51,904. Under the new Cheltenham School Tax rate, the breadwinner will have to write a check for 12.2% of his/her total gross income.

What if our median household breadwinner is on unemployment ? According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Unemployment Compensation is typically half of the last full-time wage received. So median total unemployment compensation would be $25,952. This unemployed breadwinner will have to write a check for 24.4% of total unemployment benefits at tax time.

What about those retired on Social Security ? According to www.socialsecurity.gov, the average monthly benefit is $1,228.25 or a yearly gross income of $14,739. For our retiree the new Cheltenham School Tax bill takes away 43.0% of gross retirement income.

With such a high tax burden on the weakest members of our community, why haven't our elected officials yet signed on to co-sponsor The Property Tax Independence Act (HB/SB 76) ? If passed, it will eliminate all school property taxes across the Commonwealth and will replace those taxes with funding from a single state source.

Watch the video below to find out more, then contact Representative Steve McCarter(email) and Senator LeAnna Washington (email) and request that they co-sponsor the Property Tax Independence Act, HB76 and SB76.

2014-01-07 Business and Facilities Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2014-01-07Live Recording

DateTrackWeb Link
2014-01-071Business Committee Meeting
2014-01-072Facilities Committee Meeting

2014-01-07Business and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

Note: the facilities presentation was not available at press time.

DateWeb Link
2014-01-07Preliminary 2014-15 Budget Presentation with 3.4% Tax Increase Proposal
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