Archive for November, 2019

Make Your Vote Count

Posted: November 3, 2019 in Uncategorized


In previous elections, Save NA Schools has advocated “plunking,” or “bullet voting” when you vote.

This is a common (and legal) practice in elections where multiple candidates are vying for a few spots. In this election there are 8 candidates running for 5 seats.

Plunking maximizes the value of your vote. By being selective about the votes you cast, you are giving YOUR candidates a vote, and you’re depriving the other candidates of a vote – therefore your candidate actually jumps up by two votes.

In other words, when a voter selects three candidates in a five person field, the voter is casting a “no” vote for the candidates who are left out.

On Tuesday, we advise that voters vote only for Disque, Mahler and Warner. By voting for these three candidates and these three alone, you make your voice heard.

Your vote will truly count in this election.

**Important: The voting machine will tell you that you have an incomplete ballot. Simply choose to “continue” and you can submit your ballot.


Fact Checking Flyers…

Posted: November 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

Save NA Schools fact-checked a recent flyer mailed to North Allegheny residents by a local political action committee.

The findings are below.

Q: Did Mahler and Disque vote to raise taxes?
A: Yes- as did their fellow Board members. Over the past two years the budget votes were 8-1 and 7-2 to raise taxes.
Among those that voted “yes” was NA Board president Rick McClure- and meeting minutes show that he agreed with pre-vote comments made by Mahler and Disque. (Note: McClure has donated over $1,200 to the PAC that sent this mailer.)

Q: What about the Board member who “advocated for even higher taxes?”
A: No one on the board has ever advocated for higher tax increases than those passed.
Interestingly, the tax increases that the Republican-majority board voted for were at the “full extent permissible under Act 1” – yet a PAC supported by local Republican organizations is sending out this message to voters.

Q: Did Mahler and Disque “refuse to consider an alternative and lower tax possibility?”
A: The “alternative” was only offered minutes before the vote, rather than at any time during the six month budgeting process. The change would have further depleted the district’s fund balance, likely lowering NA’s bond rating and costing taxpayers more in the long run. It’s important to understand that seven of nine Board members voted for the higher rate, not just Mahler and Disque.

Q: Tell me again about the Board member who “advocated for even higher taxes?”
A: Again, no one on the board has ever advocated for higher tax increases than those passed. In fact, any school board wishing to increase taxes higher than the Act 1 index and exceptions would need to seek voter approval through a formal referendum process. The last time a referendum was suggested was 2012– before Mahler and Disque were elected to the NA School Board.

Q: Were school taxes raised by two to three times the rate of inflation? What is the alternative?
A: No- last year the tax increase was 3.7%; inflation was 2.44%. A home valued at $238,500 saw a yearly increase of $163. Without this modest millage rate increase in 2019-2020, the Board would have needed to raid the fund balance or make dramatic cuts to programming. To equal the $4M raised through the millage rate adjustment, a Board Member calculated there would have to be cuts made to music, class sizes, technology, and school safety.

In 2013, a bipartisan group of NA residents from McCandless, Franklin Park, and Marshall Township came together to advocate for change on the North Allegheny School Board. At that time, most of the school board members had been on the Board for over a decade. The district lacked a long-term strategic plan:

1. The Board raised taxes for 3 years in a row (2010, 2011, and 2012).
2. Inaccurate projections led to the recommendation to close an elementary school — the District projected an $8 million deficit, but ended the year with a $5 million surplus. They projected that enrollment would decline, but it is now at an all-time high.
3. Elementary classes operated above class size guidelines (11 sections were above the guidelines at the start of the 2012-13 school year).
4. Classroom technology fell behind comparator districts (including Hampton and North Hills).
5. The District was not compliant with Board Policy #4125–which requires that the District maintain a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to provide feedback on important District matters.
6. The Board had made no preparations to mitigate the impact of a looming pension crisis.

As a result of these issues, Save NA Schools -a district-wide movement to took hold and 3 new members were elected to the NA School Board. After the 2013 election, board members chose new board leadership and began the process of moving NA forward.

During Disque and Mahler’s service, the following changes have occurred:

1. A new Budget and Finance Committee, comprised of 3 Board Members, was created to help prioritize District expenditures and develop a long-term plan with respect to fiscal management and tax increases.

2. A new Technology Advisory Committee, comprised of teachers, parents, and taxpayers, was created to provide a variety of stakeholders with the opportunity to develop recommendations around advancing classroom technology, which has been implemented as Focus 2020.

3. A new Elementary Class Size Policy was created to provide guidelines for determining the number of elementary sections at the start of the year.

4. The NA Foundation has been revitalized as source of alternative revenues, contributing $114,000 for supporting students in 2018.

5. A new Citizen’s Advisory Committee was reinstated to give NA constituents the opportunity to provide feedback on important District matters, and the district has surveyed students, parents, and staff on a number of issues.

6. The Board hired a new Superintendent, who has built a strong executive team and widened the district’s focus beyond test scores with the Measuring Success Framework.

7. The District hired a CMU demographer to better project enrollment. His work predicted the rapid growth being seen in the district, so the Board was able to plan ahead for changes to District infrastructure.

8. The District has hired a new Manager of Safety and Security to oversee improvements to building security, emergency preparedness and student safety.

9. The District has weathered the worst of the pension storm and emerged with the sixth-lowest millage rate in Allegheny County – with spending per student $3,000 below the County average.

Since 2013 the District has operated with a transparency that had not previously existed. Save NA Schools is proud to have helped move the District forward, advocating for members of the community as they sought change and transparency.

In this election, Save NA Schools feels there is a danger of losing this momentum. A board that is not attuned to the needs of the district could roll back the elementary class size policy and dismantle committees made up of teachers, parents, and taxpayers.

A board that is absolutely unwilling to consider raising taxes – no matter the need – will have to make cuts that will impact music, athletics, technology, and security.

On Tuesday, November 5, please vote DISQUE-MAHLER- WARNER to continue moving NA Forward.