I am writing regarding an article published in the October 20th issue of Main Line Suburban Life entitled, “Residents, board member question $1.5 million in RTSD budget.” The story, reported by Linda Stein, does not fully explain how the RTSD school board has effectively managed surplus dollars from non-school tax sources.
Currently, there is a $3.2 million surplus that will be spent in a manner that is both fiscally prudent and essential to our students’ success in RTSD schools as evidenced by the board-approved budget for the 2013-14 school year. Money from this surplus will be allocated to the $2.8 million that RTSD will spend this year for capital expenditures. This and other past surplus dollars have been designated for much needed projects, including expanding the current campus at Wayne Elementary School (WES). Due to spacing issues at WES, students attend class in modular buildings (aka trailers). This situation has been a problem at WES for over ten years! Given the projected development of Androsssan to include 60-80 additional houses, it is highly unlikely that even redistricting could assuage the spacing issues at WES, especially since the other two elementary schools in the district are already at capacity. It is time that we give WES students and teachers a proper learning environment. It is also critical to plan and save for the district’s future. The smart use of surplus dollars is a prudent and necessary course of action, and Stein’s article does not discuss this fully.
In addition to capital improvements, money from the 2012-13 budget surplus will go towards RTSD’s state-mandated contribution to the teacher pension fund (PSERS). This year alone, RTSD’s costs for PSERS will increase by close to $1 million dollars. In the future, additional increases in annual PSERS contributions will prove a serious strain to many districts across the state, and some may even go bankrupt. Anyone who thinks that Governor Corbett will take action to prevent school district bankruptcy from happening here in Radnor better think again; just look at how the Governor is handling the current district crisis in Philadelphia.
The current Democratic-led school board is managing RTSD financial resources so that school funds will have the maximum possible benefit for our students. Over the last few years, this board has invested in curriculum initiatives, teacher development, and other programs such as the planned launch of full-day kindergarten in 2014, to improve the student learning experience.
Lastly, it is important to note that none of the current $3.2 million surplus resulted from school tax millage but instead from other sources. Additional and unexpected revenue and cost savings included, for example, tuition reimbursements from prior periods and financial savings from lower legal expenses as a result of an amicable teacher contract negotiation. District savings also accrued from moving all RTSD employees to the Delaware County Healthcare trust, a healthcare plan that still provides the same level of benefits to employees but at a lower long term cost to the district. The current school tax millage matches RTSD fiscal needs; we are not being over-taxed as Stein’s article implies. We should take note that the Democratic-led school board last year passed a .5% DECREASE to this year’s school millage, making it the fourth year in a row with the lowest tax rates in 30 years.
In conclusion, I urge readers to consider all of the information before jumping to conclusions about what appears to be a rampant surplus in the RTSD budget. In actuality, this money is already spoken for and will be spent in ways that will make sure Radnor remains a highly competitive, top-notch district. Assuring that we have excellent rather than mediocre schools is important for homeowners throughout the district as it keeps property values high, and it is a necessity for RTSD students, whose very future depends on it.
Thank you very much.
Rachel Ebby-Rosin, Ph.D.