In an email sent out by the Democratic slate for School Board last Friday and titled, “Who Deserves Your Vote?,” School Board Directors Rob Armstrong and Lydia Solomon and their team continue to mislead the Radnor community on the District’s finances. Under a heading of “Responsible Funding of Radnor's Schools,” they claim “For the Fiscal Year 2012-2013, Radnor Township School District is reporting a surplus of $3.2 million. This is confirmed by the business office and independent auditors. None of the surplus came from school tax millage (taxpayer dollars) but [sic] a combination of revenue from other sources and expense savings.” Simply said, nothing about this statement is true. Nothing.
On Tuesday, October 22nd at the School Board business meeting (watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwOmbVvpEWo), the District’s auditor presented a preliminary copy of the final audit report summary showing the District’s operating income and expenses, and the transfers that occurred between funds for the year. After making a clarification about two of the fund transfers actually being included in the operating expenses for that year, the auditor clearly stated that the true fund surplus for 2012-13 was $4.671 million (watch at 12:20 on the video) and demonstrated it on the spreadsheet he was presenting. Claims to any other number are completely false and misleading.
The Democratic School Board candidates’ slogan is “Accountability, Openness, Civility and Fiscal Discipline,” yet they have demonstrated none of these qualities related to the finances of the District. Is it that they don’t understand the problem, or are they intentionally misleading you, the taxpayers and the voters? Either is alarming.
The Democrats’ email goes on to try to explain in some desperate way where the extra funds are coming from. Their misguided contention that “None of the surplus came from school tax millage (taxpayer dollars)” is just plain wrong, and the financial ignorance in this statement is nothing short of stunning, particularly given that Mr. Armstrong is the immediate past chairman of the District’s Finance Committee and continues to serve on that committee. Given that 80% of the District’s revenue comes from real estate taxes, it is completely disingenuous to suggest that the surplus does not result from over-taxation. The Democrats are twisting the truth to cover up for the fact that they have been systematically supporting budgets that, for years, have been generating enormous surpluses on the backs of Radnor taxpayers. In this instance, they are referencing the Administration’s flawed October 8 analysis that showed real estate tax revenue for the year came in very slightly under budget, but they’re completely ignoring the fact that the $2.1 million tax increase they approved last year, without a single Republican vote, funded a budget with a known systemic surplus (that is, under-budgeted revenues and over-budgeted expenses). The Democrats could have voted for no tax increase and still had $2.7 million in surplus.
You need to trust that those you elect will be honest and forthright. Unplanned surpluses are neither honest nor forthright; they are a form of over taxation and fiscal mismanagement. Ms. Michaelson, Mr. Madden and I tried to correct this for two years in a row, and both times we were voted down by the Democratic majority. But the issues don’t stop at the finances. There are important curriculum issues, such as voting to implement a full-day kindergarten program without knowing the facilities impact, or cost to the District, or allowing adequate time for planning the programming changes needed k-12. The Democrats have not yet told us what problem a full-day kindergarten program will solve, but they had no problem including $765,000 in the current year’s budget for new kindergarten teachers, even though the program won’t even start until the following year or later.
If they can’t tell you the truth about the easy stuff, like an audit report, then how can we trust them to look beyond their personal pet projects and provide for a quality education for all of our children?