Price’s school tax projections disputed

School district works to put out numbers after board member issues his own projections; no new teacher contract talks until Nov. 10

By Mike McGann, Editor,
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Paul Price has gone rogue again on the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board — and don’t hold your breath waiting for another teacher contract negotiation session.

While there won’t be any further talks in the contentious contract negotiations between the school board and the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association until Nov. 10 because of “scheduling difficulties,” board members and administrators were moving swiftly this week to put out a potential fire caused by one of their own: Price.

This time, the controversial school director issued his own set of projected tax rates at Monday night’s school board meeting based on the district’s long-term planning efforts — showing three rates, one showing no change in the current teachers contract, the board’s four-year proposal and the union’s four-year proposal. Price handed out copies of his projections prior to the meeting, saying that they were based on the district’s complex matrix of financial planning — discussed at last week’s work session, but the numbers were not made public at that time.

“I think there’s been a lot of misinformation out there,” Price said. “At the finance committee meeting last week we were given numbers that were a bit hard to understand, so I took those numbers and put them in a format people can understand what it means.”

The problem is, says Keith Knauss, the chair of the board’s finance committee, Price’s numbers are for the wrong four-year period, which changes the math.

According to Knauss, Price’s numbers cover the 2011-15 period, while the contract under negotiation right now covers a four-year period starting in June, 2010. Right now, the district is working to put out the correct numbers — but want to make sure the entire calculating process is explained in detail. The concern here is that Price’s handout — the director has been a vocal critic of the teachers union and its contract proposals — will escalate tensions in what has already been a difficult negotiation process with the teachers’ union.

Price said Monday night that he disagreed and stands by the numbers he issued.

The district is expected to issue its own official projections later this week — and will cover much of the same projections as Price’s handouts, but likely with different numbers. Knauss said he thought it was important that all of the numbers be put in perspective and that community residents be able to understand how the projections were developed.

Price continued his attacks on the teachers’ union Monday night, arguing that claims that the district could agree to the teachers’ proposals without a tax increase were “total fantasy.”

Meanwhile board director Frank Murphy said that negotiations were on hold until Nov. 10 because the two sides couldn’t find dates that worked for the entire negotiating teams on both sides.

“This is a priority for both sides,” Murphy said. “I would be willing to bet that a lot of the teachers are as frustrated by the process as we are.”

Murphy said that “We just couldn’t make dates work before Nov. 10. This is through nobody’s bad faith, it just didn’t work.”

{Editor’s note:
we have decided not to publish Price’s numbers, as there remains some serious doubt as to whether the numbers are accurate — or taken for the proper period. Although we appreciate the public’s right to know — and recognize that this may place us at a competitive disadvantage, we feel it would be irresponsible to knowingly repeat inaccurate information that would serve to further inflame the community in regards to an already difficult issue. We welcome your comments and thoughts on this matter, and will appreciate any feedback you might have.}

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