Janet Andersen 0

No ACT 1 Exemption for Upper St Clair

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To:  Ronald Tomalis, Secretary of Education, PA Department of Education

Dear Secretary Tomalis: 
Last month the Upper St. Clair School board approved a budget for 2012-13, which includes a more than 2 million dollar shortfall requiring a 1.68 mil increase in taxes. This increase is FOUR times what is allowed according to ACT 1 and it represents a more than 20% increase in taxes since 2008. Without an exemption issued by your office, the School District will be required to seek citizen approval by means of a referendum in April. Our School Board has applied for this exemption. We are writing today to ask you to deny this request and let the taxpayers decide. 

Since 2007 the School Board has been fully aware of this fiscal crisis. The charts below showing accurate budget forecasts through 2014 were presented to the Board four years ago. As you can see they accurately predicted that expenditures would outpace revenues to this degree if spending levels were not reduced. Our School Board ignored these forecasts. With these financial predictions in hand:  

  • They embarked on a costly Middle School Renovation that far exceeded more moderate proposals put forth. This project grew on an annual basis going from an original proposal of $11-45 million to a current $60 million. Every special request for this bell or that whistle was granted. Over the last 3 years they have added an additional fully equipped and acoustically sound theater, ball fields with astro-turf and night time lighting, state of the art kitchen facilities, Two running tracks, and two scoreboards with public address systems. 
  •  They continue to fund the expensive and duplicative International Baccalaureate program. Costs have now exceeded $300,000 per year and will go up in 2012 when an entire building will be converted for its sole use. This change is a result of a mandate from the International Baccalaureate Organization and therefore it is outside local control. While spending cuts to balance our budget are being made to the traditional Upper St. Clair academic, athletic, and arts programs, our Board cannot touch the IB programme. 
  •  While other districts in the state have asked for and negotiated pay freezes, Upper St. Clair Teachers have not made any such concessions.  In fact the last contract concluded in 2008 which runs through 2014 includes a 3% increase in pay (not including step increases) and only a very small increase in teacher contributions to their health benefits. 
  •  Since 2008 the Board has rejected many sound money-saving proposals including: 
         --Privatizing Transportation for a savings of 2-3 Million Dollars annually. 
         --increasing health benefit contributions for teachers and administrators 
         --scaling back the expensive and duplicative IB program. 

ACT 1 was passed in order to protect the taxpayers and to encourage School Boards to act responsibly with their money. Our School Board was fully aware of the fiscal situation that was facing them. With accurate predictions in hand they spent recklessly. Their plea that pension contributions surprised them is false. Our financial director accurately predicted these obligations in 2008. Their claim that required capital expenditures  pushed them over the limit is dishonest. These expenditures were not required and would not have pushed them over the limit if they had stuck to a more moderate project or made other cuts to balance the increases. 

Raising taxes should not be an easy exercise. It should be done with a great deal of deliberation and hard work. Tell the Upper St Clair School Board to take their case to the taxpayers. Do not grant them a waiver.

Historical and Projected Millage Increases
Given Continued Spending Levels 
Presented to the Board by Financial Director 2008


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