Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Spring-Ford's Invisible Budget Raises Taxes 4.2%

Photos by Evan Brandt
Members of the Spring-Ford School Board work together to turn over a blanket using only their feet as part of an exercise undertaken by students and demonstrated Monday night. Maybe next year's preliminary budget was hiding under there as well.

Last night the Spring-Ford School Board unanimously voted to "make public" the preliminary 2019-2020 school budget.

I would like to tell you how much the document calls for spending, but I don't know because nobody seemed to think it was important enough to mention during the meeting.

And afterward, when I asked Superintendent David Goodin how much the budget calls for spending he didn't know either, at least "not off the top of my head."

One might hope that a top administrator of a school district who just had his contract extended for another three years last month and who will be paid more than $198,000 in the first year of that contract, might know how much money his administration has proposed spending next year, but hey, that's just me.

So then I asked Dr. Goodin if the preliminary budget includes a tax increase and, noting that "I know that's all you care about reporting," he said it was "about 4.2 percent."

Asked if there is a copy of the preliminary budget that had just been "made public" and he said "it's online."

Except it isn't.

At least it wasn't on the Spring-Ford website any place that I could find it last night.
These 10 Spring-Ford Marching Band Members have been
chosen to  
march in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, CA.

The 2018-2019 budget can be found on the business office page, the one that did not raise taxes, but no 2019-2020 preliminary budget.

According to the agenda for the Nov. 19 meeting, Chief Financial Officer James Fink gave a presentation on the 2019-2020 preliminary budget, but his presentation is not attached to that agenda, nor does it appear under board presentations page, which don't go past October.

You can't look at the presentation from the minutes of the Nov. 19 meeting because no meeting minutes beyond September are posted on the district web site.

Nor can you watch Fink give the presentation because there are no videos of board meetings posted on the web site beyond October.

So it would seem that the Spring-Ford School Board and I have a very different definition of what "make public" means.

All that said, it is unlikely that taxes will end up going up by 4.2 percent next year.

The preliminary budget is just what it sounds like, a very preliminary look in a ridiculously long budget process driven by Pennsylvania's Act 1.
Not to be outdone, the Spring-Ford High School Marching Band
was on hand last night, all 170 of them, to celebrate winning the
Cavalcade of Bands Championship this year.

That act requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education to issue an "adjusted index" for each school district every year. Think of it as a "tax cap" over which a school budget cannot raises taxes without getting voter approval in the spring primary election.

Given that Spring-Ford's index for the 2019-2020 school year is 2.3 percent, it's more likely that the 4.2 percent tax hike Goodin mentioned is simply a place-holder.

As the year goes on, expenses get clearer and estimates get more accurate and the final budget adoption in June is likely to produce a tax hike, if any, of 2.3 percent or lower.

Last year the board did not raises property taxes at all and the year before that, it raised taxes by 2.3 percent.

But until the 2019-2020 preliminary budget is "made public," we won't know exactly where things stand right now.

And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting:

No comments:

Post a Comment