Big issues to discuss: Selling schools, taxes, musical instruments, vaping and a level playing field

Big issues to discuss: Selling schools, taxes, musical instruments, vaping and a level playing field
Posted on 10/28/2018

Good evening! Hope you had a relaxing weekend!

Last Thursday night, the School Board conducted a Finance Committee meeting, then its second Board Meeting of the month. There were important items that were discussed and subsequently voted on that I wanted you to share with you. The Board voted 7-2 to approve the contract to sell Milford Middle School (and its 39 acres) and Tohickon Valley Elementary School (and its 10.4 acres) to Faith Christian Academy for $900,000 and $1.1 million, respectively. Faith Christian Academy now has 90 days to do its "due diligence" to complete its own feasibility study of the two facilities, then complete the purchase no later than March 31, 2019. Selling two old schools is a coup for any school district. I expect the Board will use the $2M from the sale to apply it to the renovation/expansion cost of Neidig Elementary School. Additionally, the $580,000 which was set aside in this year's budget for the demolition of Milford MS will become a savings to the district.

Another item discussed and recommended by the Finance Committee, and subsequently approved 9-0 at the Board Meeting, was to "Opt Out" of Exceptions to the Act I Index for the next school year. The Act I Index for Quakertown for Fiscal Year 2019-20 is 2.7%. Making sound financial decisions that includes controlling expenses is so important to maintaining a healthy financial posture. To give you a balcony view of the district's overall financial posture, please take a moment to review the PFM Budget Model. It's a snapshot of the district's financial health - where we've been, where we currently are, and how things are projected to look for us five years from now. It assumes an Act I Index tax increase each year of 2.7%. Specifically, find the Total Expenditures row on the left column (reddish brown shaded area), then follow it across to columns for Actual 2017 and Estimated 2018. You will find QCSD's expenditures for both years, not yet finalized as the audit hasn't been completed, were an estimated $104 million. We expect to net more than $1 million from the 2017-28 school year to our Fund Balance.

Another fiscal item the School Board approved Thursday night was the purchase of $65,000 worth of band instruments for our middle school students. While used high school instruments migrated down to middle school after the infusion of $265,000 worth of new instruments for the HS band program, the middle school had additional needs. We heard from our teachers that transporting tubas home on the bus has been problematic, and a safety concern. So, we threw the net a little wider and ordered more than just tubas for the middle school band program. Next year, all of our music programs will be in "Year Two of the Six-Year Curriculum Cycle" when music teachers will be refining and realigning their curriculum. Once Year Two work is completed, then additional funds will be allocated toward the music program's needs. Our instrumental music teachers have provided top notch programs - concert, marching and jazz bands. In turn, the Board has done its part to keep the momentum going!

A point of concern to us is the dramatic, if not alarming increase in the use of e-cigarettes and vaping - not only while at school, but out in the community. The most popular brand of vaping device in America is the Juul, which makes up 71 percent of the national market. Juuls look like a small USB flash drive for a computer. While vaping is medically safer for adults than smoking regular cigarettes, vaping still creates nicotine addiction, and vape devices are also used for smoking marijuana and other illegal substances. I encourage you to take the time to thumb through the 2017 PA Youth Survey report that summarizes what Quakertown secondary students - grades 6, 8, 10, 12, are self-reporting about their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors towards alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use to help communities address root causes of antisocial behavior. Last spring, we invited David Fialko of the Council Of Southeast Pennsylvania to present at Parent Council about drug abuse and trends. On November 7, at 6:45 PM, in the Quakertown Performing Arts Center, David will be back to do a reprise of his spring presentation. Additionally, Director of Pupil Services, Janet Pelone will provide a short presentation on the results from our PAYS survey. I encourage you to attend this important presentation!

Finally, the Board unanimously approved a resolution that recommends the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association redesign postseason athletic competition, separating boundary (traditional high schools) and non-boundary (parochial and charter) schools from each other in the playoffs. Already scores of other school boards across PA have supported a similar resolution. The PA Legislature, hopefully, will take note and direct the change to level the playing field.

Thank you for taking the time to read. I encourage you to share your feedback whenever you have the time. We are most grateful for the opportunity to hear your perspective.

Bill Harner

Superintendent, QCSD

WHarner@qcsd.org

Twitter: @BillHarner

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