Tell School Board to VOTE NO on December 19th

Posted: December 11, 2012 in Take Action

On December 19th, school board members will vote YES or NO to schedule a public hearing related to the closure of Peebles Elementary.  It is the school board members who have the power to close a school.  They are not required to follow the administration’s recommendation.  A public hearing is the first step in the process for closing the school.  We are launching a movement to get school board members to VOTE NO to the public hearing.

Here are the top 5 Things YOU can do:

  1. Register to speak at the December 19th meeting.  You can simply stand up and say “Vote NO” if you are not comfortable with public speaking.  Call 412-369-5437 and ask to speak at the BEGINNING of the meeting.
  2. Contact members of the school board.  You can call them or write them a letter.  Click here for Contact Information and here for a Form letter.  We suggest you focus your efforts on:
    1. Joe Greenberg
    2. Libby Blackburn
    3. Chris Jacobs
    4. Tom Schwartzmier

    PLEASE REQUEST THAT THE BOARD MEMBERS VOTE NO TO SETTING THE DATE FOR THE PUBLIC HEARING.  You can also use one (or more) of the following points as a basis for your conversation or voice mail.

  3. Write a letter to the editor.  Letters should be no more than 250 words and should only focus on one topic.  Click here for letter to the editor details and a link to the Post Gazette Editorial dept.
  4. Attend the December 19th meeting. Consider arranging childcare so that both you and your spouse can attend.  The meeting is at 7pm at Carson Middle School.
  5. Forward this email to 10 people.  Tell everyone YOU know about the impact on the remaining buildings. Explain that this is is not a done deal and get them to attend the meeting on December 19th!
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Comments
  1. Ash Marwah says:

    NA is $10 Million short for next year’s budget. Preliminary Budget will be passed in Jan, 2013. What is the solution to the money problem? Without a solution for the $10 Million, what can the Board do? Their hands are tied and they need to cut costs before they go for a Referendum to ask people to raise their own NA School Taxes.

    • Kevin Mahler says:

      As you say, the budget needs to be passed next month – so closing a school a year from now will have no impact on that budget. Even if it would save us a little money now, there would be no reason to bring it to a vote when there is no comprehensive budget proposal to close the rest of the gap. That bridge needs to be crossed for the short term in some other way.

      As we look down the road, we have to balance many priorities and many of us have different views about what those priorities should be. However, I’m think we can all agree on a few things:
      1) School closures come with a quantifiable financial cost, due to the need to renovate the remaining schools to accommodate the children who will be moved. There are also costs that are harder to quantify – but which have a very real impact on those of us who live here, whether or not we have children in the schools. For example …
      2) Many people live here – and perhaps moved here in the first place – because of the quality and perceptions of the school district. That includes not only the academic achievement of its students, but the many opportunities it provides for those students to learn and grow.
      2) The fact that our home prices (and valuations) have remained stronger in comparison to surrounding districts is due primarily to the school system. Homes within the same neighborhood are higher once the line is crossed into North Allegheny – due to the quality of this school district.
      3) If the school district changes substantially, this differentiation may quickly be lost. The value of our homes may drop – resulting in even lower revenues to support the institution that provides the primary distinguishing value for our homes and a loss in net worth for those of us who own homes here.
      4) The board approved a substantial decrease in our millage rate a few years ago, based on their desire to operate the district efficiently and with a minimum impact on local taxpayers. However, since that time, the state of Pennsylvania has substantially cut the amount of money given to our school district – and increased its pension obligations. As a result, we have a budget shortfall.
      5) The school district has cut (I believe) 90 staff members in recent years and is already seeing higher class sizes as a result. We also currently have one of the lowest millage rates in the county.

      While I would certainly welcome a chance for the community to give input on the budget, these kind of facts lead me to believe that there is no reason for the board to close a school, simply to provide politically expedient evidence of responsible fiscal management.

      Like it or not, we are all going to pay one way or another. Either we allow the board to take our millage rates back up, or we pay higher state taxes to restore that funding, or we see the value of our homes drop as our school district becomes less attractive relative to the nearby districts.

      Therefore, I say there is no reason to close a school that provides a compelling value proposition to home buyers looking to move into our district. This is especially true because, based on everything I have seen from the NA Administration and its contractors, I see no compelling reason to consolidate schools, rather than simply redistributing students to provide consistent class sizes across districts.

      It is counter-productive to put classes in rooms designed for other purposes, or to spend extra money renovating those schools for such purposes, when we have perfectly good rooms to use right now. There ARE substantial reasons to keep those schools open – to promote the local neighborhoods that they serve and to provide a unique, positive, and effective elementary school experiences for the children that we will depend on to be responsible citizens in the future.

      • Ash Marwah says:

        I had written in an earlier post that No School should be Closed. I agree with you whole heartedly. The millage rates have been as follows:
        2002-03 16.705
        2003-04 18.522
        2004-05 18.522
        2005-06 18.522
        2006-07 19.722
        2007-08 19.34
        2008-09 18.99
        2009-10 18.99
        2010-11 19.74
        2011-12 20.56 ??
        2012-13 20.923

        As you can see the millage decreases were small and increases have over taken already. Our per pupil cost of $15,381 tells us that we are spending enough on public education as compared to other School Districts in the area. Any further increases to our costs will only put our costs in the stratosphere compared to Mt. Lebanon or Upper St. Clair.
        The salaries and benefits have skyrocketed in the last 11 years even with reduced employment at NA. Here are some comparisons:
        1998-99 2000-01 2010-11 2012-13
        Budg et $76.8 MM $84.3MM $121.3MM $126MM
        Real Estate Tax $51.7MM $54.2MM $83MM $99MM
        Salaries & Benefits $59.3MM $61.7MM $91.4MM $95MM

        Since the salaries and benefits make up such a large chunk of the budget, this budget item has to be addressed/reduced.
        We are looking at annual tax increases “for the foreseeable future” according to Ms. Joy Ed, Director of Communications, in an email addressed to me. This is not a one year increase of $10 Million only. The School District is running short for multiple years. I would be glad to share that email from Ms. Joy Ed with you.

  2. Melissa Zick Korol says:

    Can someone please explain to me what is happening to the additional $2500 I alone will be paying in school taxes as a result of the most recent home reassessment? If everyone’s house was re-assessed at a 40% increase as mine was, there shouldn’t be a budget shortfall at all!

    • Karen Rosella says:

      By law, school districts are not allowed to realize a tax windfall of more than 5 percent as a result of property reassessment. The anti-windfall law is designed to prevent school districts and other taxing bodies from reaping a “backdoor” tax increase through a reassessment.

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