Holidays can be a sad time for Cheltenham Families and Businesses

Permalink2015-12-21Update

 

2015-12-21Cheltenham School District Tax Liens

The Holidays can be a stressful time for normal folks. It is especially stressful if you are hauled into court to pay your school tax bill. The following table lists the current pending tax liens for the Cheltenham School District (Click on the "Continue without logging in" link to view the case.):

Pending Tax Liens for Cheltenham School District: 10/10/2015-12/21/2015
Case NumberCase Number
Case 201023617 Case 201026920
Case 201027938 Case 201028188
Case 201028192 Case 201028376
Case 201028379 Case 201028694
Case 201029140 Case 201030451
Case 201030546 Case 201031388
Case 201031981 Case 201031982
Case 201032054  

2015-12-08 Regular Legislative Meeting: 2016-17 Tax Increase Limited

Permalink2015-12-08Live Recording

 

The board adopted the resolution that they will not apply for any waivers to increase 2016-17 taxes over the Act 1 index limit of 2.4%. Your podmaster can't help but wonder whether or not the recent release of abysmal High School test scores had something to do with this action....

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-12-081Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2015-12-08Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-12-08Nov 2015 Revenue
2015-12-08Nov 2015 Exp Summary
2015-12-08Volunteer Clearances - December 2015 (1)
2015-12-08Agenda 12 08 15 EDEP Final (3)
2015-12-08Volunteer Clearances - December 2015
2015-12-0815-16 Budget Transfers

2015-12-01 Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-12-01Live Recording

 

Your podmaster recommends the Financial Affairs meeting where a menu of financial good and bad news was on offer.

On the good news side, the administration recommended to the board that any tax increase for 2016-17 be kept below the Act 1 index limit of 2.4%. A 2.4% increase equates to 1.068 mills pushing the budget to over $106 million. Of course, unless a wave of other school districts in our area apply for waivers to increase above the Act 1 Index, Cheltenham will still have the highest school tax rate in Montgomery County.

On the bad news side, The preliminary 2015 audit presentation detailed the impact of a recent change in accounting practices (GASB 68) designed to bring government bookkeeping in line with the private sector. Specifically, the state has forced local school districts to carry their share of the state's pension liability on their books.

The result of the change is that $140 Million of the state pension debt has been assigned to Cheltenham's balance sheet. The district has dived deep into the red with a 2015 deficit of $99 million. To give an idea of the change it should be noted that a surplus of nearly $38 million was reported in 2014. The finance director indicated that there is no real impact on operations caused by this change.

The real question is: what is the effect of GASB 68 at the local level when a state declares bankruptcy ? Do state creditors hold the locality directly responsible for the assigned portion of their debt if the state cannot pay ?

The question is timely in that the US Supreme Court agreed this week to hear the Puerto Rico debt restructuring case.

While Puerto Rico is not a state, whatever decision is made in the case will surely affect heavily indebted states like Pennsylvania.

The Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, has stated that the $72 billion public debt is unpayable and needs restructuring. His restructuring plan calls for further consolidation of public schools, with some 135 closures already implemented.

So will Puerto Rico local governments be forced to pay for their share of state-assigned debt ? If so and if Pennsylvania goes bankrupt, Cheltenham may find that the $99 million deficit we were told "not to worry about" is real and will force the closure of some of our newly-built schools.

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-12-011Facilities Committee Meeting
2015-12-012Finance Committee Meeting

20151127 Montgomery County High School Comparison: Cheltenham HS in the Cellar

Permalink2014-08-05update

 

The value delivered by our public High Schools can be thought of as the ratio of the measured test performance of that school and the taxes that it takes to attain that performance.

I combined the recently released 2015-14 state test results (available in raw format at this link) with the Montgomery County tax rate table (available at this link) to determine how Cheltenham compares in terms of value with the other districts in Montgomery County. The full spreadsheet is available below.

In terms of value, Cheltenham High School is at the bottom of the barrel. In terms of the percentage difference between Cheltenham High School's test scores and the township's tax rate Cheltenham is deep in the cellar with no relief in sight:

Montgomery County Tax Rate Table: Cheltenham Value Compared To Other Municipalities.
Municipality High School 2015 School Tax Mills 2013-14 High School Academic score School Tax Mills PERCENT BELOW Cheltenham Rate Academic Score PERCENT ABOVE Cheltenham Score
Municipality High School 2015 School Tax Mills 2013-14 High School Academic score School Tax Mills PERCENT BELOW Cheltenham Rate Academic Score PERCENT ABOVE Cheltenham Score
Ambler Wissahickon SHS 18.261 101.8 58.98% 53.08%
Lower Gwynedd Wissahickon SHS 18.261 101.8 58.98% 53.08%
Whitpain Wissahickon SHS 18.261 101.8 58.98% 53.08%
Narberth Harriton SHS 26.2321 98.8 41.07% 48.57%
Lower Merion Harriton SHS 26.2321 98.8 41.07% 48.57%
Collegeville Perkiomen Valley HS 30.87 98.6 30.65% 48.27%
Schwenksville Perkiomen Valley HS 30.87 98.6 30.65% 48.27%
Trappe Perkiomen Valley HS 30.87 98.6 30.65% 48.27%
Lower Frederick Perkiomen Valley HS 30.87 98.6 30.65% 48.27%
Skippack Perkiomen Valley HS 30.87 98.6 30.65% 48.27%
Lansdale North Penn SHS 23.6223 97.6 46.93% 46.77%
North Wales North Penn SHS 23.6223 97.6 46.93% 46.77%
Hatfield North Penn SHS 23.6223 97.6 46.93% 46.77%
Montgomery North Penn SHS 23.6223 97.6 46.93% 46.77%
Towamencin North Penn SHS 23.6223 97.6 46.93% 46.77%
Upper Gwynedd North Penn SHS 23.6223 97.6 46.93% 46.77%
Lower Providence Methacton HS 27.9 95 37.33% 42.86%
Worcester Methacton HS 27.9 95 37.33% 42.86%
Bridgeport Upper Merion HS 18.96 93.9 57.41% 41.20%
West Conshohocken Upper Merion HS 18.96 93.9 57.41% 41.20%
Upper Merion Upper Merion HS 18.96 93.9 57.41% 41.20%
Conshohocken Plymouth-Whitemarsh SHS 20.5125 90.5 53.92% 36.09%
Plymouth Plymouth-Whitemarsh SHS 20.5125 90.5 53.92% 36.09%
Whitemarsh Plymouth-Whitemarsh SHS 20.5125 90.5 53.92% 36.09%
Pottstown Pottsgrove SHS 39.2522 90 11.82% 35.34%
Lower Pottsgrove Pottsgrove SHS 37.7158 90 15.28% 35.34%
Upper Pottsgrove Pottsgrove SHS 37.7158 90 15.28% 35.34%
West Pottsgrove Pottsgrove SHS 37.7158 90 15.28% 35.34%
Rockledge Abington SHS 29.89 89.6 32.85% 34.74%
Abington Abington SHS 29.89 89.6 32.85% 34.74%
East Greenville Upper Perkiomen HS 23.0622 85.7 48.19% 28.87%
Green Lane Upper Perkiomen HS 23.0622 85.7 48.19% 28.87%
Pennsburg Upper Perkiomen HS 23.0622 85.7 48.19% 28.87%
Red Hill Upper Perkiomen HS 23.0622 85.7 48.19% 28.87%
Marlborough Upper Perkiomen HS 23.0622 85.7 48.19% 28.87%
Upper Hanover Upper Perkiomen HS 23.0622 85.7 48.19% 28.87%
Upper Dublin Upper Dublin HS 31.4099 84.9 29.44% 27.67%
Horsham Hatboro-Horsham SHS 26.848 76.4 39.69% 14.89%
Norristown Norristown Area HS 33.179 71.5 25.47% 7.52%
East Norriton Norristown Area HS 33.179 71.5 25.47% 7.52%
West Norriton Norristown Area HS 33.179 71.5 25.47% 7.52%
Cheltenham Cheltenham HS 44.5156 66.5 0.00% 0.00%

2015-11-27Background Data

DateWeb Link
2015-11-272015-14 High School Value Index Spreadsheet
2015-11-272015-14 Percent Comparison Cheltenham HS vs Montgomery County High Schools

2015-11-10 School Performance Profile 2014-2015: Cheltenham High School Gets a "D"

Permalink2015-11-10Live Recording

 

The main news from this month's meeting concerned the recently released state test results for Cheltenham High School: a score of 66.5. This is the latest low point in a long term decline:

Cheltenham High: School Performance Profile 2015 to 2012

Given Cheltenham has the highest Montgomery County school tax rate, One resident summarized the present situation as "paying for good performance and not getting it."

During the public comments period,"Citizen"Art Haywood stated the following: "I am here because of the scores that were put on display-- the school profile report. The profile is abysmal and unacceptable…"

"The high school has been in a downward trajectory for a number of years. This is not the first year, although this is the lowest…"

"We need new leadership at the high school. The leadership at the high school has not been successful…. That's my request: that you look closely at immediate and fundamental change at the high school. Because we are losing kids and we are losing value in Cheltenham Township."

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-11-101Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-11-102Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-11-10Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-11-10Oct 2015 Revenue
2015-11-10Oct 2015 Expense Summary
2015-11-10Superintendent Goals 2015-2016 11-10-15
2015-11-10P103 EQUAL OPPORTUNITY PROGRAMS 11 6 15 First Read
2015-11-10P357 457 557 Complaints 10 5 15 First Read
2015-11-10November 2015 Volunteers Sheet1
2015-11-10Agenda 11 10 15 EDEP Final
2015-11-10November 2015 Volunteers Sheet1
2015-11-10Budget Transfer 20151110

2015-10-13 Regular Legislative Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-10-13Live Recording

 

The podmaster's pick for this meeting concerns question/comments by two attendees regarding whether the district is adequately verifying that students who enroll in the district are legal residents. It is illegal for non-residents to use Cheltenham Schools. This is a sensitive topic since the Township shares a border with Philadelphia.

Some in the township are skeptical that the district takes policing the residency requirement seriously because of the inherent conflict of interest that more students can lead to a bigger budget. It should be noted that from 1999 to 2009 Cheltenham School District enrollment declined by nearly 17% while the tax millage rate increased by nearly 46%. One shudders to think of the present tax rate if enrollment actually increased !

The first question at the meeting was a simple request for a report describing district efforts to verify student residency. The second question was from a former member of the Enrollment Registration Residency Task Force (which appears to have last convened on December 16, 2014).

The main points of the second question were:

  • The questioner identified two jobs in the district that concern residency verification: the Residency Inspector and the Residency Coordinator.
  • We currently do not have a Residency Inspector and no one new was hired for this position.
  • Last month, the Residency Coordinator retired. As of last week the Residency Coordinator job has not been posted.
  • The questioner stated that she lives on a street with 25 homes. One of her neighbors is a former board member. There were two instances of children attending Cheltenham schools illegally.
  • Nothing happened regarding this situation for several months until she contacted the former school board member.
  • If the board does not take residency seriously, it sends a direct message to teachers, residents and to those students here illegally that the school board is allowing this to happen.

The superintendent responded to these two questions. Your podmaster would like to provide you with a detailed summary of the superintendent's response; however, it is difficult to parse. It is hard to tell whether the new super had a bad night, or is using long, tedious and rambling responses as a form of crowd control.

The bottom line is that I could not find an answer in his response to the question of when critical residency-related positions will be filled or when a residency report would be released. The superintendent's complete response is available at this link. You might hear something that I missed….

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-10-131Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 3
2015-10-132Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 3
2015-10-133Regular Legislative Meeting Part 3 of 3

2015-10-13Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-10-13Agenda
2015-10-13Sept 2015 Exp Summary
2015-10-13Sept 2015 Revenue
2015-10-13Volunteers Oct 2015 (1)
2015-10-13Budget Transfers

2015-10-06 Finance Committee Meeting: Cheltenham has the Highest Transportation Cost Per Student in Pennsylvania

Permalink2015-10-06Live Recording

 

At this meeting Finance Director Cara A. Michaels announced that Cheltenham Township School District has the highest transportation costs per student in the state of Pennsylvania

At the meeting, it was said that some of the factors contributing to this dubious honor were:

  • Hazardous areas in the district force the bussing of 1700 students.
  • Transporting Cedarbrook students to the distant locations.
  • Costs of transporting 500 students to 54 non-public schools.

The most egregious example of run-away cost was given as a group of 123 students whose transportation expense was $9500 per student. One wonders how much Uber $9500 would buy....

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-10-061Finance Committee Meeting Meeting Part 1 of 1

2015-10-06 Act 34 Hearing for Cedarbrook Project

Permalink2015-10-06Live Recording

The total millage impact of the Cedarbrook project was estimated at this meeting as follows:

Act 34 Est. Total Millage Impact of Cedarbrook Project
$12,850,000 G.O. Bonds on Table I 0.14 mills
$17,400,000 G.O. Bonds on Table II 0.34 mills
$21,250,000 G.O. Bonds on Table III 0.83 mills
Indirect Costs 0.07 mills
Total Millage Impact 1.38 mill

This will result in a 3.1% increase on the median home:

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-10-061Act 34 Hearing for Cedarbrook Project Meeting Part 1 of 1

2015-10-06Act 34 Hearing for Cedarbrook Project Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-10-06Cedarbrook Rebuild Project Page
2015-10-0610.6.2015 CBK Rebuild-Act 34 Hearing - Final
2015-10-06Notice Of Public Hearing Act 34
2015-10-06Act 34 Project Description Booklet

Cheltenham School District Tax Liens for Sep/Oct 2015

Permalink2014-08-05Update

 

2015-10-11CSD Tax Liens for Sep/Oct 2015

The following are the tax liens filed for Cheltenham School District on the Montgomery County Court website from 9/1/15 to 10/11/15. (Click on the "Continue without logging in" link to view the case.)

Case #
Case# 2015-25066
Case# 2015-25075
Case# 2015-25077
Case# 2015-25078
Case# 2015-25545
Case# 2015-25575
Case# 2015-26082
Case# 2015-26699

2015-10-06 Facilities Committee Meeting: Cedarbrook Issues

Permalink2015-10-06Live Recording

 

When a person rents a car, the rental company checks the car for damage before the final bill is settled. In the case of Cedarbrook remote campuses at Ivy Hill and Saint Joseph, the Facilities Committee discussed damage to the parking lot of these facilities caused by heavy school bus traffic. The district will be responsible for these damages.

An estimated $35,000 temporary asphalt repair project will be carried out shortly to help carry the facilities through the winter. A preliminary cost estimate of $576,000 was discussed for full repairs to the leased facilities.

It was also mentioned that the Ivy Hill facility hired a project manager to track the damage caused by students.

The majority of the meeting was taken up an additional architect presentation (over and above the presentation at the Act 34 Hearing). The Architect presented 3 construction alternatives which totaled as follows:

Cedarbrook Construction Alternatives
OPTION A: Renovate Existing Auditorium $51,157,804
OPTION B: New Auditorium and Music Room $54,689,750
OPTION C: New Auditorium Addition WITHOUT Music Rooms $50,464,886
Note that these estimates do not include the costs to repair the athletic fields which will most certainly be impacted during the construction. The cost of renovating the fields is $996,540.

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-10-061Facilities Committee Meeting Meeting Part 1 of 1
2015-10-062Facilities Committee Meeting Meeting Part 2 of 1

2015-10-06Facilities Committee Meeting Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-10-06Facilities Committee Oct_2015 Presentation
2015-10-0610.6.2015 CBK Rebuild-Facility Committee Meeting

2015-09-08 Regular Legislative Meeting Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-09-08Live Recording

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-09-081Regular Legislative Meeting Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-09-082Regular Legislative Meeting Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-09-08Regular Legislative Meeting Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-09-08Agenda
2015-09-08Aug 2015 Exp Summary
2015-09-08Aug 2015 Rev
2015-09-08Cedarbrook MS Act 34 Booklet - FINAL DRAFT w Financial - Reduced file size (1)
2015-09-08Sept 2015 Horizontal Movement (1)
2015-09-08Agenda 9 8 15 EDEP Final (2)
2015-09-08September 2015 Clearances for Board
2015-09-08FINAL PHILA-1763544 - Parameters Resolution - Cheltenham SD - 1 (1)

2015-09-01 Cedarbrook Architect Presentation/Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings

Permalink2015-09-01Live Recording

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-09-011Cedarbrook Architect Presentation Facilities Committee Mtg Part 1 of 2
2015-09-012Cedarbrook Architect Presentation Facilities Committee Mtg Part 2 of 2
2015-09-013Facilities Committee Meeting
2015-09-014Finance Committee Meeting

2015-09-01Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-09-01Facility Presentation September 2015
2015-09-01Facilities Committee Meeting (Architect Presentation)
2015-09-01Finance Committee Transportation Overview – 9/1/2015

2015-08-11 Regular Legislative Meeting: Cedarbrook Cost Exceeds $50 Million

Permalink2015-08-11Live Recording

 

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..

Cheltenham School District Tax Liens for July/August 2015
(click on the "Continue without logging in" link to view the case)
Case# 2015-15343 Case# 2015-15361 Case# 2015-15367 Case# 2015-15371
Case# 2015-15377 Case# 2015-15392 Case# 2015-15396 Case# 2015-15406
Case# 2015-15409 Case# 2015-15415 Case# 2015-15423 Case# 2015-15427
Case# 2015-15447 Case# 2015-15461 Case# 2015-15466 Case# 2015-15469
Case# 2015-15473 Case# 2015-15524 Case# 2015-17544 Case# 2015-20267
Case# 2015-20272 Case# 2015-20279 Case# 2015-20353 Case# 2015-20579
Case# 2015-20899 Case# 2015-21430 Case# 2015-21754 Case# 2015-22153
Case# 2015-22166 Case# 2015-22651

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-08-111Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-08-112Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-08-11Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-08-11Meeting Agenda
2015-08-11July 2015 Exp Summary
2015-08-11July 2015 Revenue
2015-08-11Extra Duty Extra Pay Agenda 8 11 15
2015-08-11Proposed Athletic Event Staff Fees 2015-2016 (1)
2015-08-11August 2015 Clearances for Board
2015-08-11Enrollment_Numbers_2015-2016_as_of_7_29_2015_-_Google_Sheets
2015-08-11Budget Transfers

2015-08-04 Facilities/Finance Committee Meetings-- Cedarbrook: Architectural Mission Creep ?

Permalink2015-08-04Live Recording

 

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.

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-08-041Cedarbrook Comments at Facilities Committee Meeting
2015-08-042Facilities Committee Meeting
2015-08-043Finance Committee Meeting

2015-08-04Facilities/Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-08-04Facilities 8/15 presentation without Architect presentation
2015-08-04Finance 8/15 Presentation

2015-07-21 Special Meeting

Permalink2015-07-21Live Recording

 

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.

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-07-211Special Meeting

2015-07-21Special Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-07-21Meeting Agenda
2015-07-21EDEP Agenda 7 21 15 Final Sheet1
2015-07-21July 2015 Clearances for Board
2015-07-212015-2016 Adacemic Calendar Revised 7-21-2015

Montco School Tax Comparison Update

Permalink2014-08-05Tax Analysis

 

2015-06-14Montco School Tax Comparison Update 20150614

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 RankMunicipalityTax on $143K MedianMills% of Cheltenham Tax
1Cheltenham$636644.5156100.00%
2Pottstown$561339.252288.18%
3West/Upper/Lower Pottsgrove$536437.509584.26%
4Jenkintown$534337.365583.94%
5West/East Norriton & Norristown$465832.572073.17%
6Lower Moreland$451631.583170.95%

DateWeb Link
2015-06-146/2/15 Finance Committee Meeting Presentation
2015-06-14Montgomery County School Taxes
2015-06-14Montgomery County Other District School Taxes as a percentage of Cheltenham School Taxes

2015-06-09 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-06-09Live Recording

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-06-091Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-06-092Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-06-09Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-06-09May 2015 Exp Summary
2015-06-09Wagner Marseille, Ed.D. District Superintendent Contract
2015-06-09Kenneth Roos, Esq./Wisler Pearlstine, LLP, Solicitor Rates
2015-06-09Budget Transfers
2015-06-09May 2015 Rev
2015-06-09P359 459 559 Nondiscrimination in Employment 6 9 15 Second Read
2015-06-09257 Suicide Prevent and Self-Harming Behavior 6 9 15 Second Read
2015-06-09814 copyright material 6 9 15 Second Read
2015-06-09EDEP Agenda 6 9 15 Final v1
2015-06-09June Clearances for Board 060915

2015-06-02 Finance Committee Meeting

Permalink2015-06-02Live Recording

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-06-021Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 1

2015-06-02Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-06-02Final Budget Presentation – 6/2/2015

2015-05-12 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-05-12Live Recording

 

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."

The latest case in point is the quiet disappearance of Dr. Matthew Bramucci, whose "resignation" was accepted without comment by the board at this meeting.

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 ?


DateTrackWeb Link
2015-05-121Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-05-122Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-05-12Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-05-12Agenda
2015-05-12April 2015 Exp Summary
2015-05-12April 2015 Revenue
2015-05-12StratPlan Application 5-4-15 DN
2015-05-12Substitute Rates 7 1 2015 Proposed
2015-05-12EDEP 5 12 15 Agenda Final (1)
2015-05-12Revised May 2015 Volunteers

2015-05-05 Cedarbrook Middle School Rebuild Design Concepts Meeting

Permalink2015-05-05Live Recording

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-05-051Cedarbrook Middle School Rebuild Design Concepts Meeting

2015-05-05Cedarbrook Middle School Rebuild Design Concepts Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-05-05Cedarbrook Rebuild GAI Design Concept

Abington Proud vs Cheltenham Proud

Permalink2014-08-05Observation

 

2015-04-19Abington 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:

BLAS ScoreDistrictSchool
97.8Abington SDHighland School
93.7Abington SDAbington Senior High Sch
93.1Abington SDRydal East School
91.3Cheltenham SDCedarbrook MS
90.9Cheltenham SDGlenside El Sch
88.5Abington SDRoslyn School
87.4Abington SDMcKinley School
87.2Abington SDOverlook School
87.0Abington SDAbington JHS
86.2Abington SDWillow Hill School
85.7Abington SDCopper Beech
85.1Cheltenham SDMyers El Sch
80.3Cheltenham SDCheltenham EL
74.0Cheltenham SDCheltenham High Sch
72.1Cheltenham SDElkins Park Sch

There is one area in which Cheltenham has the highest "score" in the county:

School DistrictSchool MillsTax Bill on $143K Assessed Home
Cheltenham43.6856$6247.04
Abington29.06$4155.58

2015-04-14 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-04-14Live Recording

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-04-141Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-04-142Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-04-14Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-04-14Meeting Agenda
2015-04-14Preliminary Budget PDE-2028-Preliminary
2015-04-14facilities committee_april_2015_presentation
2015-04-14March 2015 Expense Summary
2015-04-14March 2015 Revenue
2015-04-14P921 Public relations objectives 3 3 15 (01037150xAED82) (01052023xAED82)
2015-04-14Extra Duty Extra Pay 4 14 15 Agenda Final
2015-04-14HVAC TECH MAINTENANCE MECHANIC 01 2015
2015-04-14April Volunteer Clearances 2015

2015-03-10 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-03-10Live Recording

 

Two observations regarding this meeting:

  • The Cedarbrook Authorization of Request for Proposal passed on a 7-2 vote with Ms Russell and Ms. Hawkins voting against the measure.
  • The policy committee is busy passing policies regarding the reporting of arrests and obtaining clearances, yet I cannot recall an explanation as to why this activity is taking place.

The only reasonable cause for the policy committee to be working this hard has to do with the Pass the trash law signed by Governor Corbett last year. Sen. Anthony Williams of Philadelphia and Rep. David Maloney of Berks County lead the effort to pass this law. So what does the law do ?

  • Districts must check with previous employers whether a job candidate has been investigated, disciplined or dismissed for student abuse or sexual misconduct.
  • Job applicants must agree to these background checks with former employers.
  • Job applicants would have to sign a formal statement listing any past investigations, disciplinary actions by any party of child sexual abuse or misconduct.
  • Job applicants who issue false information would be terminated and face prosecution.

So why do school districts need to be forced by law to perform these common-sense actions ? The video below explains the situation:

One of the most egregious lemon-dance cases of a cross-state educator predator was that of former elementary school principal Edgar Friedrichs Jr. He started his career at the Interboro School District's Prospect Park Elementary School where, according to the Inquirer, "Friedrichs had been allowed to quietly resign from the Delaware County school amid allegations that he molested some of his students." He later "moved" to West Virginia where in January 2002 he was convicted on four felony counts of child sexual abuse. In 2003 he was indicted for the 1997 murder of a 12-year-old West Virginia boy.

While, it is a good thing that state legislators have finally addressed this problem, Pennsylvania is only one of three states to protect its children this way. Senator Toomey has co-sponsored a Federal "Pass the Trash" bill that would require tougher background checks as a condition of receiving federal funds.

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-03-101Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-03-102Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-03-10Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-03-10Agenda
2015-03-10P818 Contracted Services Second Read 03 10 2015 3
2015-03-10P350 Reporting arrests second read 03 10 2015 1
2015-03-10P008 Board orientation second read 03 10 2015 1
2015-03-10P550 Reporting arrests Second Read 03 10 2015 1
2015-03-10P558 Required Clearances second read 03 10 2015 1
2015-03-10P450 Reporting arrests Second Read 03 10 2015 1
2015-03-10P458 Required Clearances Second Read 03 10 2015 1
2015-03-10Part-Time Confidential HR Secretary 02 2015 1
2015-03-10Coordinator of Athletics 02 2015
2015-03-10EDEP 3 10 15 Agenda Final
2015-03-10Gift Exercise Equipment from Salus University
2015-03-10Volunteers for School Board Approval

2015-03-03 Finance/Facilities and District-wide Facilities Study Presentation in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-03-03Live Recording

 

The District-wide Facilities Study reaffirmed the case for the rebuilding of Cedarbrook Middle School. Since the last board vote on Cedarbrook was a 5-4 split, the final outcome may not be a straightforward vote on next Tuesday. Stay Tuned to this station....

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-03-031District-wide Facilities Study Presentation
2015-03-032Facilities Committee Meeting
2015-03-033Finance Committee Meeting

2015-03-03Finance and District-wide Facilities Study Presentation Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-03-032013-14 Audit
2015-03-03Agenda Facilities March 3 2015
2015-03-03Agenda Financial Affairs 3-3-2015
2015-03-03Food Service RFP Process

2015-02-10 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-02-10Live Recording

 
DateTrackWeb Link
2015-02-101Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-02-102Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-02-10Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-02-10Agenda
2015-02-10Jan 2015 Revenue 2
2015-02-10Jan 2015 EXP SUMMARY 3
2015-02-10P818 Contracted Services 1 30 15 (00112848xAED82) 1
2015-02-10P458 Required Clearances 2 5 15 (01019815xAED82)
2015-02-10P350 Reporting arrests 2 5 15 (00515560xAED82)
2015-02-10P358 Required Clearances 2 5 15 (01009214xAED82)
2015-02-10P008 Board orientation 2 5 15 (01019970xAED82)
2015-02-10P558 Required Clearances 2 5 15 (01019804xAED82)
2015-02-10P450 Reporting arrests 2 5 15 (00515561xAED82)
2015-02-10P550 Reporting arrests 2 5 15 (00515562-2xAED82)
2015-02-10Special_Education_Coordinator Job Description 02 06 2015
2015-02-10Extra Pay 2-10-2015
2015-02-10Volunteers - Board Meeting 2-10-2015
2015-02-10Budget Transfers

Technical Note

Permalink2015-02-07Website Houskeeping

 

The podmaster would like to thank a listener for notifying him of problems with the podcast feed. The problems were caused by the Internet Archive's default to HTTPS URLs which cause problems with some podcast clients. The problem has been resolved and we thank you for alerting us.

2015-02-03 Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-02-03Live Recording

 

The Finance Committee has settled on a 1.9% tax increase for the 2015-16 budget. See our earlier published infographic to view the impact of this increase on incomes and competitiveness.

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-02-031Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2015-02-032Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2

2015-02-03Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-02-03Finance Presentation 02.03.15
2015-02-03Facilities Committee Feb 2015

The Cheltenham Cross: Millage versus Student Enrollment

Permalink2014-08-05Analysis

 

2015-01-17The Cheltenham Cross: Millage versus Student Enrollment

One of the concerns of the board members that have now delayed the rebuilding of Cedarbrook is that new options must be evaluated to accommodate the needs of the future. Yet according to the district's own demographic study the high end projection of students in the 2023-24 school year is 5026: still below the year 1999 when district enrollment was 5108.

In short, the existing square footage accommodated more students in 1999 than are projected for 2023-24.

Undoubtedly, one relationship that will hold is the "Cheltenham Cross" of tax millage versus enrollment as shown below:

DateWeb Link
2015-01-17Tax Rate Data from Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED)
2015-01-17School Enrollment Data from Pennsylvania Department of Education
2015-01-17PDF of Cheltenham Enrollment vs Millage 1998-2014

2015-01-13 Cedarbrook Decision Punted to the Experts: Regular Legislative Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-01-13Live Recording

 

Based on last week's Facilities Committee Meeting, It was expected that the following motion was going to be voted on tonight:

The Administration & Facilities Co-Chair Committee is recommending Option 1,to rebuild Cedarbrook Middle School with a new 20,000 sq.ft. addition.


That simple motion was canceled. Direct action on issuing contracts to start the rebuilding of Cedarbrook Middle School was not voted on in this meeting. The following resolution was substituted in place of the earlier text:

The Facilities Committee recommends that the administration be authorized to finalize the district-wide facility study and– conditioned upon the results of that study— prepare for Plancon justification for the rebuilding of the Cedarbrook Middle School.


While this motion ends with the phrase "prepare for Plancon justification for the rebuilding of the Cedarbrook Middle School" that outcome is subordinate to ("conditioned upon") a district-wide facility study.

Facilities Chair Bill England stated,

"One of the reasons we are sitting here after months is having too many things floating around out there. We've gone from just a couple proposals to way too many proposals to looking at the sale of this building (ed note: the administration building). What's been lost in all of that is the pressing need to be able to make progress on a commitment that we made before that school was evacuated, and am going to continue to say that I support seeing this program through and it is not about going back through 8 different options and going back through all that again. I mean we've done that. We can roll the tape and see that was discussed here."

Yet a few moments earlier, Board member Stacy Hawkins asked the following:

"I do want to start off with a question that is a point of clarification that this feasibility study is in fact going to undertake a study of all of the options that were on the table prior to the proposed vote on a single option. And that the study will not weight any of those options more than any other in considering which is the recommended option."
To which Dr. Bavi answered that yes, the study would consider all the options.



All this is rather confusing to your podmaster who was wondering if these two board members were attending the same meeting. Our listeners can "roll the tape" and see that the single decision to rebuild Cedarbrook is now back to where it was in December. Regardless, the new motion passed 5 to 4 in a rare contested board vote.


If that were not enough, a motion was made to amend the resolution with the statement, "and other district buildings as deemed appropriate and justified by the study." which, it appears to your podmaster, would open the construction can of worms wide open and further move a decision which is the responsibility of elected board members into the hands of an unelected architectural firm. Fortunately, this amendment failed in a 4 to 5 vote.


Even so, it seems that the architectural firm who performs the study will be driving the agenda. So it is rather confusing to this listener that there were no questions regarding potential conflict of interest with this firm, namely:


  • Is the architectural firm that performs the study barred from bidding on work that will be the result of the study ?
  • If not barred– and since "professional services" run as a percentage of 25% of the cost of the job– what assurance do we have that the study won't be skewed to the most expensive option ?

School district policies 818 and 818AR do not address conflicts of interest issues with providers of contracted services. Hopefully it will all be resolved before the present temporary facility leases expire.


DateTrackWeb Link
2015-01-131Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 3
2015-01-132Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 3
2015-01-133Regular Legislative Meeting Part 3 of 3

2015-01-13Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2015-01-13Revised Meeting Agenda
2015-01-13Dec 2014 Revenue 4
2015-01-13Dec 2014 Exp Summary 7
2015-01-13Extra Duty Extra Pay 1/13/15 with board member rel.

Construction Cost Inflation Accelerating

Permalink2014-08-05News Item

 

2015-01-10Construction Cost Inflation

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Rider Levett Bucknall, a property and construction consulting firm, released a new report showing that building costs are rising at the fastest rate in six years. According to the Journal: "The firm–which tracks the costs of new commercial, residential and other buildings– said its index of construction costs in the U.S. increased 1.66% between July 1 and Oct. 1, the largest three month increase since early 2008."

Good thing a decision has been made on Cedarbrook !

DateWeb Link
2015-01-10Rider Levett Bucknall Report
2015-01-10WSJ Blog Item

2015-01-06 Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings in 4 Separate Recordings

Permalink2015-01-06Live Recording

 

(quote)The Administration & Facilities Co-Chair Committee is recommending Option 1,to rebuild Cedarbrook Middle School with a new 20,000 sq. ft. addition.(unquote)

DateTrackWeb Link
2015-01-061Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 3
2015-01-062Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 3
2015-01-063Facilities Committee Meeting Part 3 of 3
2015-01-064Facilities Committee Meeting

2015-01-06Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

Note: the Finance Committee presentation was not available at press time.

DateWeb Link
2015-01-06Agenda Facilities 1 6 2015
2015-01-06Agenda Financial Affairs 1 6 15
2015-01-06Facilities Presentation
 
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