UCF school board passes budget, 8-1

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Murphy lone hold-out on $71.1 M 2012-13 spending plan

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
PENNSBURY — In the end, it was almost quiet.

The Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education gave preliminary approval to its 2012-13 budget Monday night, which calls for an average 1.83% tax increase for district taxpayers.

By an 8-1 margin, the board approved the $71,109,857 spending plan, which will mean a  tax increase of 2.69% in Chester County and a decrease in Delaware County of 1.74% (the difference is caused by differing gross property values of the two counties as set by the state). The preliminary approval comes a month earlier than typical, although final approval is still slated for June.

Although at least one other member had been vocal about wanting to lower the tax increase — Keith Knauss, who chairs the board’s Finance Committee — in the end, only Frank Murphy voted against the budget as proposed. Knauss said he accepted that it was clear that there were more than five votes in support of the budget as presented, so he opted to show unity with the rest of the board.

Murphy, though, decided to hold out and argue once again for tapping the district’s reserves to lower the impact on taxpayers this year.

“We should not take more than we need to,” Murphy said.

His colleagues, though, argued that the need — especially with concerns about the impact of coming years — was clear and that they were not taking the funds frivolously.

Board member Victor Dupuis cited concerns over multiple years of pension increases to come, concerns about how the new state funding mechanisms would likely erode state funds and the continued struggles of the economy as reasons not to further tap the reserves.

Knauss acknowledged Murphy’s concerns, but that the numbers amounted to about $20 per household in taxes a year, although he allowed he might support an amended motion on the budget, if offered.

Other members, though, reenforced their arguments that keeping the numbers where they are now could prevent real sticker shock next year for taxpayers.

“I’m worried most about the next year,” member Holly Manzone said. “I think I’d rather see a little pain now than a big tax increase next year.”

“I think rainier days are to come,” board Vice President Jeff Leiser said.

Murphy countered by arguing that the funds could be taken from the reserve account without it dropping below the 5% mark that is board policy (the current budget calls for a 5.23% reserve).

Murphy’s arguments did not sway any of his colleagues, and the budget was given preliminary approval by an 8-1 margin. The board will have to give final approval to the budget in June — and changes to the final tax rate could still be made.

The entire budget is available for public inspection either on the web or at the district office.

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13 Comments

  1. Ray Farrell says:

    Dr.Price

    As a percentage, how much has UCF union teacher pay increased since 1999?

    Thanks

  2. Just a reminder that the lastest UCFEA settlement was $1.7 million above the ‘status quo’ requirement (for this school year and next year combined).

    If that money was still available for general purposes this tax increase and many of the non-union staffing cuts would not have been necessary.

  3. concerned_in_ucfsd says:

    Frank Murphy for UCFSD President!!!

    • Kristin Hoover says:

      I see that you have fallen for the oldest political trick in the book. Frank Murphy knew that he would be outvoted and that he was “safe” in going against the vote. Now, he can follow the Grover Norquist mantra about not supporting tax increases and preserve his Republican ties for the future. School Boards are the political equivalent of the “farm team” in that they are a proving ground when the bigger Republican offices come open. Now he will always be able to say that it wasn’t him when it came to raising your taxes! The taxes weren’t ever going to do anything except go up. The question was always a matter of how much. Instead if showing bipartisan unity with fellow board members and being a team player, he decided that 20 bucks a family was the thing worth dissenting over. My guess is that the 20 bucks was nothing and that this was really a vehicle for his self-promotion to future more important Republican leadership roles.

      • steve says:

        I also seem to remember Frank Murphy said how the last vote (where he narrowly was re-elected) was a wakeup call to him, and that he would …how to say it…be a bit more open to compromises, in the future. I even posted that was refreshing to hear him say that….the refreshment only lasted like a stick of gum apparently. One the other hand, I was never a fan of Keith and his positions, but to me, it seems he has really tried in many situations to compromise, and to be sure, some of his positions, to try and come up with a board consesus…and with an eye to the future. I really applaud Keith…I’m much more open to evaluate his points of views on issues now as something to compromise to…rather than just an opposition view.

        • Kristin Hoover says:

          Really great comment!

        • Frank Murphy says:

          Steve – Thank you for your interest in this subject. I am pretty sure that if you took the time to understand the budget conversations that occurred you would see your criticism is misplaced. To that end, it seems we have a different definition of “compromise” – in this matter you seem to define it as doing whatever the majority says. That is not my definition. My view is I compromised in agreeing to fund the District in the amount the Superintendent showed was needed to maintain our great schools. That sure sounds like compromise to me – on the most important issue: funding the District. You seem to have missed that point. What I objected to was not taking the excess fund balance we are holding and using it to reduce the amount due from each taxpayer this year. That’s right – the “excess” balance. The District is holding about $150,000 of taxpayer money above the 5% fund balance needed per policy. I see no reason to hold that money. I don’t think any level of government should hold taxpayers money indefinitely and outside of a policy that provides for specific reserves. Other Board Members disagreed and felt that excess might be needed next year and wanted to cushion a potential larger tax increase next year. I understand their position and did not attack it; I simply disagree. That disagreement doesn’t show a failure on my part to compromise. I would have been happy reducing the excess by any amount (as I stated at the Work Session). I wasn’t tied to a full $150,000 amount. Again, sounds like the spirit of compromise to me. There were numerous programs and positions that could have been cut this year to lower taxes. I decided not to push for any of them this year for two reasons. One, I was concerned that they might damage the quality of education. Two, I want to give the changes made over the past two years time to settle in and give our new Superintendent the opportunity to institute his vision. Gee, sounds like compromise from where I am sitting. Maybe if you asked me about this before accusing me you would have seen that I did compromise. Happy to discuss with you at any time. While I think these posts are great for asking questions and getting information and giving some explanation, I think they are problematic when the personal attacks start. Call me if you want to discuss 484-841-6371. Other than answering a specific question for information purposes I am not going to get in an anonymous back and forth so I won’t be posting further on this. Thanks. FM

      • Frank Murphy says:

        Ms. Hoover – I have no intention of getting into a back and forth with you in this forum so I will not respond to your personal attacks after this post. If you ever want to have a substantive discussion about budget issues call at 484-841-6371. FM

      • D. Randle says:

        A district-wide average tax increase of 1.83% will result in a $20 increase per household? I’m certainly not an expert on district tax policy, but it seems to me that that would mean that the current average tax bill would be $1100 per household. I would prefer not to engage in partisan politics, but I suspect Grover would call this Democrat math.

        • Kristin Hoover says:

          I call your attention to the above statement quoted from above, “Knauss acknowledged Murphy’s concerns, but that the numbers amounted to about $20 per household in taxes a year, although he allowed he might support an amended motion on the budget, if offered.” Keith is a Republican. You can call out me out on the partisan nature of something if you want, but it all seems pretty Republican to me.

          • D. Randle says:

            My bad! I just assumed that, because of his tendency to run with the herd without knowing where he was going, Mr. Knauss was a Democrat. Maybe he’s just a Specter-Republican. You know… vote with the big spenders and they promise to help you get reelected.

        • Keith Knauss says:

          Math time!!
          .
          The average tax bill in UCF is about $5K. A 1.83% tax increase would amount to $90 per household; not $1100 as Randle mentioned above.
          .
          Q: Where did the $20 figure come from?
          A: Mr. Murphy and I were discussing whether to raise taxes by 1.83% without use of the fund balance or use $170K from the fund balance to lower the tax increase. The $170K amounts to about $20 each for the 9,000 households in UCF.

        • Turk182 says:

          One really doesn’t much care what Grover would call it; his pledges ask elected officials to pledge loyalty to him over country, which is where I get off the bus, thank you.
          And not for nothing, I’m a bit lost on all of this Republican chest-thumping on financial responsibility. Wasn’t it a Republican president and congress that nuked the deficit? Right after a Democrat balanced it?
          Weren’t all of the nice folks who rammed through the high school project largely Republicans?
          I think both parties are full of manure, but it seems like the Republicans are driving much, much bigger dump trucks lately.

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