On solid financial footing with challenges ahead

On solid financial footing with challenges ahead
Posted on 11/03/2019
Good evening!

Lots going on throughout the district over the past few weeks. It was the end of the regular season for Fall High School Sports. The Quakertown Marching Band once again won statewide honors and competed in Maryland this weekend, more than 900 students attended their Homecoming Dance, and the English Department held its annual Shakespeare Day at the High School.

Students and teachers celebrated Halloween in some pretty cool ways, too! At Strayer Middle School, I saw a student walking around the halls “riding” his Tyrannosaurus Rex and two “best friend” students came to school as “Thing 1 and Thing 2,” while the office and administrative team dressed up as Kind Bars. At Richland Elementary School, I joined teachers and support staff members as an Expo Dry Erase Marker - we became a “pack.” At the high school, Science Department teachers wore elements of the Periodic Table - the signs meant they were “Heavy Metal.” Elementary schools also had Halloween Parades where students dressed up as their favorite characters. It was a fun day and a great way to finish up the First Quarter of the school year!

At the October 24th School Board Meeting, the Board made a few significant decisions and heard from the instructional leadership team from Trumbauersville Elementary School. This year during the Superintendent’s Report, teachers and principals will be presenting how they perform their craft each and every day to advance student achievement. Trum Principal Adam Schmucker and his instructional coaches and teachers -- Beth Haegele, Susan Scheetz, Peggy Smith and Lauren Zeigler -- shared some of Trum’s results, and most importantly how they use and analyze student performance data to make decisions on what every single student needs. Please take a moment to watch the Board meeting video. Up next on November 14th will be Principal Scott Godshalk and his teachers from Neidig ES. We are proud of the great things going on in our schools!

At the Board Meeting, Directors took a strong stand to combat vaping in the district by passing a resolution to join other districts in a lawsuit against e-cigarette companies. We have compiled the resolution, the filed lawsuit, and what the media has said about the Board’s decision on our homepage. It will not cost the district one cent to participate in the lawsuit.

The Board also approved the five-year Capital Improvement Plan for district facilities that was provided by D’Huy Engineering, our construction manager for the Neidig ES Construction project. It also approved this year’s projects at a cost of $1 million. This will only be the third year in the district’s history that the Board proactively set aside money to take care of its facilities. The projects were identified in priority order, with school safety improvements and most needed projects at the top of the list. It is important to note that D’Huy said that it would cost approximately $15 million to renovate Quakertown Elementary School. For those of you who had students in the district five years ago, you may recall the cost for renovating QES was estimated at $11 million. The cost of making capital construction and improvements have gone up that much.

The Board made an early budget decision to not exceed Pennsylvania’s Act I Index, which limits a potential tax increase in Quakertown to 3 percent for 2020-21. That would bring in nearly $2 million in revenue. Our District today is in excellent financial position, and able to sustain our exceptional programs and teaching staff at current levels while maintaining and improving facilities. There are numerous variables, however, that the future Board will have to decide on.

As I suggested to the Facilities and Finance Committees, the next Board will need to continue thinking strategically about the knowns and unknowns - possible pluses and minuses to our budget-sustaining program while being responsible to our taxpayers. For example, we expect that we will continue to decline in enrollment by approximately 100 students a year for the next four years. If you recall, the first class that QCSD experienced a decline in enrollment was five years ago - students born during the first year of the Great Recession. They are now in 5th grade, our Class of 2027. When the Class of ‘27 attends the Sixth Grade Center, the 6GC will be at half the building’s student capacity. Next August, with the completion of new construction Neidig ES, the district will have at least 500 empty seats in grades K through 6. Then, in three years, when the Class of 2027 is in 8th grade, all of our 6th through 8th graders could fit into Strayer Middle School. There are numerous possibilities for a community committee to consider!

Other variables that the Board may consider this year during budget discussions are not just the impact of significant cost drivers for the 2020-21 budget, but for the following year. These include but are not limited to decisions on school start times and next year’s teacher contract negotiations. The most significant cost drivers for school districts are personnel related costs. Our contract with Levy Bus, Inc.is scheduled to expire soon. Adding in the start time option that takes us back to a two-tier Transportation System - middle and high school starting at the same time, the annual $4.2 million cost increase could range between $500K to $1 million.

Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts with the Board and me - [email protected]. Your feedback is invaluable to us.

Bill Harner

[email protected]
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