Senior Tax Rebate Program
The current board is already exploring the options for a senior rebate program, but we do not want to mislead the public into thinking tax rebates apply to all seniors. The reality is, when you look at these programs, they only benefit seniors whose total annual household income is less than $25k-$35 (counting half of social security), and the amount of the rebate is a sliding scale of $250-$650. There is also currently a state program. Here are the details: https://www.revenue.pa.gov/GeneralTaxInformation/PropertyTaxRentRebateProgram/Pages/default.aspx
Here is an example of the Neshaminy version:https://www.neshaminy.org/Page/758
Full-day kindergarten needs to be a community decision, but it would be dishonest to suggest it is something we could feasibly do at this time. A building utilization study was completed in 2015 on adding full-day kindergarten. It required putting additions on buildings to add the 10 additional classrooms needed to accomodate the program. That includes making morning and afternoon full-day and accounting for the 20% of students who attend other programs for a full-day option. It also including renovating all learning support classrooms, building a wall in the center and putting all learning support students into half-sized classrooms, despite the enrollment indicating learning support classrooms could have as few as 4 less students in the class. This plan also preceded adding STEM to the elementary schools which utilizes additional classrooms and counted on an enrollment drop that is less than what was predicted. It requires borrowing millions of dollars and stacking out the debt, capitalizing the interest for 5 years, wasting millions on interest. This would completely eliminate the long-term financial planning that is in place to make us debt free with millions of dollars to put back into the classroom, instead of wasting it on interest.
Long-term Financial Plan
Last year, we implemented a 6 year capital projects plan that prioritizes our needs and bridges us to the debt drop $6 million annually. Over the following 5 years, it would drop by $13 million annually and make us completely debt free. That provides us with millions of dollars to to utilize for any major projects as we go, and plan for them, rather than wasting it on interest. The prior process was to borrow millions of dollars and stack out the debt to the end of current payments, capitalizing the interest (paying interest on interest). We need to keep this board in place to carry out this plan. In addition to the upkeep of our facilities, this plan adds air conditioning to elementary schools, regrading all grass fields at all schools, including some playground areas where students cannot currently play. This will provide more opportunities to more students. We have established fair, long-term contracts with staff. Our financial plan prevents us from needing to raise taxes or borrow money for the foreseeable future and prioritize money to the classrooms.
Upper Bucks County Technical School (UBCTS) Funding
The Articles of Agreement established a funding formula for the technical school that requires the three sending schools Palisades, Pennridge, and Quakertown, to fund the operating budget based on a 5 year rolling average of the percentage of students each district has in the school. The 5 year average allows for any increase from year to year to be more minimal so it would not have a significant impact on districts. The funding formula is fair. The problem is that over time, side agreements were made to cap what districts were spending and borrow from fund balance, creating a significant and unsustainable structural deficit. It also required some districts to fund the school in way that is unproportional to the number of kids they were spending. This year, we worked together with the other two districts to end the side agreements and fully fund the tech school in accordance with the fair funding formula legally on the books. It also credited Pennridge back for the $136K overpayment. Essentially, all 3 districts agreed we need to pay our bill and properly fund the school. If the prior side agreements were being utilized this year, we would have seen a decrease to the tech school of $20k from last year. This was a funding crisis that would have left the tech school broke in the next 10 years. We are also increasing efforts to expose students to the opportunities at UBCTS early on. Dual enrollment has also been expanded with the Bucks County Community College for students to do both.
We made all non-confidential documents public, prior to meetings, so community members can access all information and actively participate in meetings. Prior to this action, documents and details were not available to the public. Community members had to file right to know request to get information. By the time they received the information, the vote was over so it was too late to share thoughts and concerns. Community members bring value to the discussions. The old process also wasted a great deal of money on attorney fees, as well as administrative time reviewing requests for information that should already be available to the public.
Taking college courses at Bucks County Community College was disincentivized by not allowing students to get credits for the courses they took or have it countable toward their gpa. Now, they get credit for these courses and the district is expanding the partnership and scheduling to provide more opportunities to more students.
Students are now appropriately recognized for their achievement in a way that is more fair. Previously, students transferring into Pennridge had an advantage over our students because it allowed students to being in more credits than students had the ability to take in Pennridge. The calculation weighted those extra credits higher and gave an advantage over students with a higher gpa.