Budget Planning Ideas from the Community

  • Budget Planning Ideas Received from the Community

    I would like to comment regarding the budget however I was not interested in the resulting special interest debate of last night nights meeting. I am a taxpayer living in one of the newer developments in New Tripoli. I have two children in the elementary school and pay nearly $6000/year in taxes. I have lived in New Tripoli my entire life and when we purchased our home five years ago I knew taxes would be high because of the limited industry in the district- clearly we could have looked at most of the surrounding districts and paid much less. I do however think the Administration has a responsibility to reach out to the various township governments and discuss development of things such as the retirement community that was proposed and rejected in Lynn Township. The school district should (or should have) absolutely been involved in the debate especially since this type of development would not add additional students and will benefit the district as a whole. Again, I think the Administration has a responsibility to be involved. My question is simply that- what is the Administration doing to work with local municipalities regarding much needed industry development? And if they are not involved, why?

    I understand that we do not want to compromise the rural atmosphere; I do not want major development in this area either. I am not suggesting a mall or a chain restaurant but certainly we can look at economic development to lessen the tax burden and fund our school. We should not be discussing cuts in the arts or kindergarten, we should be discussing economic development and funding. In the past 15 years, the district has added hundreds of new homes and townhouses and thus more students. This needs to be balanced with industry.

    I also want to note that I felt the meeting was very informative and I am sure the community is grateful for the insight. We do all want what is best for our district but I think the focus should not be in the taking away but in the adding to our school.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. The school board and administration welcome any discussions with local municipalities about industry development within the school district. 


     First, I’d like to thank you and all of the school district representatives who put together and presented the budget discussion last night.  I found the meeting to be very informative, and I think it demonstrated the difficult position that we are all in.  It was fantastic to see the student support and participation in the meeting.  I think the students that spoke last night are the perfect example of what we’re all trying to achieve – well-rounded, well-spoken, highly-educated young adults.

     Response: Thank You for your comment. We agree that the students that spoke at the Community Budget Forum were examples of well-rounded, well-spoken young adults.


    After thinking about the topics discussed, I had a few additional questions. 

    1.       During the presentation, we reviewed a number of non-mandated programs, but that list was not exhaustive.  Do we have a complete list that could be shared with the community?

    2.       For each of the non-mandated programs, could you also provide the approximate budget for each?  I think this might help to put perspective around how much of a “hit” each program would have to take versus programs that would be wiped out entirely by even the slightest reduction in funding.

    3.       I believe the Q&As are going to be posted online – could you also include on that page a question submission form, for additional questions that may come up as the community continues to consider our challenge?

    4.       And on that Q&A page, could you also include quick links to any relevant documentation, such as the audit that the one community member referenced last night, budget documents, government contact information, etc.?

    Response: We listed many of the mandated/unmandated program at the Community Budget Forum but do not have an all inclusive list of mandated/unmandated programs. We can certainly work on approximate budgets for each program for future budget presentations. All questions and answers received will be posted online. We also placed a link on this site to collect additional feedback. The budget documents and legislative contacts are also listed on our website. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    You commented that your debt is variable rate. As interest rates are expected to rise, have you considered refinancing that debt into a fixed rate to lock in the historically low current rates.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see FAQs. Your comment is addressed within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

     

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Develop a group of community members (i.e, parents with children of different ages and financial backgrounds [including those that play sports and take advantage of clubs, music, etc.], teachers, small business owners, residents without children, retirees and possibly a state representative) to work with the adminstration and school board to bring a balance of opinions and ideas as to the best way to help our students succeed in this tough economic time.

    Response:  Thank You for your comment. We encourage you to attend school board meetings to become informed and involved in the process. In the coming months, we will be asking for volunteers to participate in the District’s strategic planning process, which includes a variety of stakeholders. Please watch for this notice and apply to volunteer. 

     

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    The district has too many administrators. Start eliminating administrative positions. Both teachers and administrators need to agree to across the board pay freezes as well as increased contributions to both benefits and retirement funds to bring them in line with the current realities in the private sector (the people that are paying the taxes). In NWL the tax millage has gone from 32.18 in '01-'02 to 50.66 in '10-'11. This is an unsustainable rate of increase for the taxpayers of this district.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    I have a daughter who will be attending Kindergarten next year. Has any thought been given to having parents pay the school district for Kindergarten? I have been paying for pre-school the last three years, what is one more year. Also, could some of the extra-curricular activities at the middle and high school level like year book be run by parent volunteers? Thank you

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Your question is addressed within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    At the meeting last night, there was no mention of pay freezes or pay cuts for the entire staff including administrators. Why was that not mentioned? Consider what the salaries of the people living in the school district are. The employees (administrators and teachers) are making more than most of the people in the audience on 4/5. Demographics show a lot of retirees on fixed incomes barely able to make ends meet with no children filling the roles. From the texting questions you did a good job of detracting from the real problem -- salaries.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. This was mentioned at the Community Budget Forum and is also answered within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Why were the teachers and staff paid bonuses for being at the meeting on 4/5? Also, why was each employee paid an hour of overtime in order to review the budget? In the real world, this does not happen.

    Response:  Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. This question is addressed within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

    Teachers and staff were not paid bonuses for attending the budget meeting on 4/5. Teachers who attended did so on their own time and were not required to attend. The 13 administrators who were asked to attend were not paid any additional money. 

    This District has not provided bonuses to any employee during Dr. Wright’s tenure as superintendent.

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    I like the idea of taking a percentage of all or most programs instead of eliminating any one program. I would also encourage the public to vollunteer for positions at the school like library assistant, teachers aid, office support, lunch aid, ect. Another idea might be to have upper classmen fill positions as an elective for teachers aids, library aid, ect. Maybe we could reach out to businesses to donate needed software, or have them pay for advertising on school buses. The last idea I have is for co-op classes to offer services to the community such as auto repair, yard work, carpentry, light construction, farming for reasonable donations to the school. You could also have the art students auction off items they make in class.


    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Many of the ideas you mention are on the “additional ideas for budget planning” list. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    pay freeze and maybe a pay cut say 4% and staff contribute to there health insurance. This would help cut down on the 35% of the budget going to salary. I believe we will not lose teachers if this is presented to them with other districts doing away with positions all together.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs.

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Eliminate some teachers and have bigger class sizes. Eliminate pensions and benefits. (We have to pay for our own health insurance.) Eliminate sports programs. Cut teacher salaries. Have unpaid volunteers do some things that are paid now.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Please contact me regarding potential grant money. I am willing to volunteer my time in order to find public funding for our district. Thank you.

    Response: Thank You for the offering your assistance. We will be in touch!

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    A registration fee of $40 $50 $60 for each student registered at the schools to help pay for computer/library/guidance fees. (i.e. $40 /elementary).Also pays for the district calendar (or eliminate that too). Remove 100% LCCC funding. No funding for any dual enrollment. It is 100% on the student. pay to play for middle/high school sports Pay for all extracurricular clubs $25-40/club depending on the cost/ facility use/and transportation accociated with that club If there is a charge for AP courses - discontinue them only keep math/english. TEachers pay toward their benefits and pay cut or increase based on "real cost of living growth of community For transportation savings either eliminate 1/2 day for high school exams . Or have them stay at the school and schedule speakers for drug awareness or i.e. "high school transcripts and what they mean to you and those viewing them" or volunteer day at the high school where they help clean or do something. Or have middle school also have 1/2 day those days to lower transportation costs. Should never run just "middle school" or high school busing 1/2 day. -don't reproduce the athletic code each session but only give copies to those who didn't participate the first session. -have each student provide upon paid registration (1 ream of paper, 1 set of papertowel for school supplies). -hire 1 librarian to manage the elem. schools and use volunteer parents to assist and put books back - Have 1 music teacher and 1 art teacher to rotate bwtn the 2 elem. schools. They can have parent volunteers help on days kids are working on projects assigned the class before. Have art only/music 1 day a week. Don't start instrumental music till 5th grade and middle school music teacher shares that job of teaching that class. Really need to figure out from a district support your school program how to eliminate CYBER/charter being paid by the taxpayer who is already paying for our schools. Explain why we have "advertising fees" in the budget. What are we advertising? Must really really try to keep tech. education and home-ec at the middle school level as it could be their only exposure. Get a coalition of school admin. statewide to make taxpayers aware of the Government at state level reqmts (earlier) and thus hiring full departments for absense tracking or other reports they need. It is wasteful and would rather higher a teacher than a team of statistians collecting data for the state.

    Response:  Thank You for your comments. Please see our FAQs. Many of the ideas you mention are on the “additional ideas for budget planning” list. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    I'm not sure if these thoughts are even possible because of not knowing all the "ins and outs" of how everything works, but here are my ideas: 1. Can we lower the number of coaches for sports? 2. Can we eliminate or lessen the number of buses used to travel to away games for athletics? 3. From experience, we have learned that instrumental lessons at the high school level are no longer necessary. Actually, the students are often sent off on their own to practice without the teacher. 4. Can band and chorus be eliminated as a class where you earn credits and solely be an after school activity? This may help the budget in the way that music teachers could share time in the middle school and high school. 5. Make all teacher assistants'/remedial assistants' pay rates in all the buildings consistent. Some are paid more per hour than others. 6. Make all teacher assistants/remedial assistants part-time, eliminating health care costs. 7. Regarding the marching band, one band director and one band front director should be all that is needed for a band our size. I attended Northampton High School with a much bigger band, and we managed fine with only those 2 directors. Thank you for considering my comments.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Many of the ideas you mention are on the “additional ideas for budget planning” list. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    *Wage freeze for teachers *Kindergarten-Pay to attend (if it comes out lower than daycare or preschool, it may be an option) *Use volunteers in place of Library Assts.and Teachers Assts. (students from the High School could volunteer as their senior projects or ask parents or retired residents) *LCCC-students responsibilty to pay for courses taken *MS & HS Sports-Pay to Play *Extra cirricular-Pay to Attend *Guidance-consolidate courses

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Many of the ideas you mention are on the “additional ideas for budget planning” list. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    April 7, 2011 To Whom It May Concern: First of all, I would like to say thank you for including the community in the budget planning process. It shows a great deal of integrity, that most of us truly appreciate. I have some suggestions that I think will help with the budget process. We need to focus on making money instead of cutting programs. I don’t know the legal particulars of a school district embarking on such endeavors. I realize there is an administrative cost for this as well, in addition to the cumbersome bidding process that is involved. I believe that process can also be streamlined. I think the district can take advantage of advertising space on school buses, the message board in front of the high school, and any other appropriate district property. The football stadium already has placards, why not place more in other areas of the district? I realize that it may not be a large revenue generator, but it is better than nothing. It could turn into a huge opportunity. My other idea is to change electric power suppliers, if that hasn’t been done already. Heidelberg Township recently did this and it will save them a significant amount of money. In addition, I think that alternative energy is another option to explore. Perhaps a corporate sponsored windmill farm? Hamburg Area School district has solar panels on their high school that are very well concealed. I think this problem can become a windfall for the district if we take this as a chance to make real changes and not do the same old thing. Thank you for the opportunity to present my opinions. Best regards.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Many of the ideas you mention are on the “additional ideas for budget planning” list. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    I believe you need to take a look at your administration before you eliminate programs. How many administrators are there and how many can be eliminated. Do not cut our teaching staff; they directly affect our students.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Your comment is addressed within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

     

    Please list your suggestions for the Green Team ~:
    I'm not sure if this is the right place to submit this info, if it is not, please let me know. As a custodian for another school district, I see a lot of things throughout my evening in which I believe could be done to conserve. I've never been in any of the schools in NW SD, but I'm sure at least some of these things could be done by the staff to reduce energy usage. For teachers: Make sure all computers, student and teacher, are shut down before they leave. If there are smart boards, make sure they are shut down also. Make sure students are recycling, even though the district I work in has recycling bins, it is absolutely amazing to me how much recyclable material ends up in trash cans. I don't know if you currently have dumpsters for paper recycling, but I know that there are companies who will pay for paper products by the pound, so instead of all that paper going to waste in the garbage or just being recycled, why not earn a little extra money for the paper? If needed, I can try and get the company's name for contact info. For custodians: Don't change trash bags unless they have holes, have food stuck to the bag, or smell. Changing trash bags on a nightly basis is not only a waste of money, but is no good for the environment. Water cleans many things well. The amount of chemicals generally used is a waste, and pollutes ground water when extra chemicals are put down the drain. A wet rag works well on white boards, black boards, and taking spills and sticky spots of the floor. Don't use more chemical than needed. Many custodians will add way more cleaner to the buckets at night than necessary. Most of which goes unused and dumped down the drain at the end of the night. Make sure to turn lights off if found on when you arrive. Again, just some suggestions as a custodian of another school district. Every little bit counts. Thank you for your time.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs.

     

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Cut salaries - to make them more inline with smaller school districts - or private sector jobs. When new employees are hired - start them out with lower pays - don't start them off at the top and add on from there. There are some very qualified people(maybe not as qualified as you post for) available for less money. Increase the employees payments towards their medical insurance as well as increasing co-pays to lessen the cost of insurance. I know that the bus drivers no longer have benefits, but have you gotten rid of benefits for all part-time employees? Do away with unfunded retirement programs/pensions. Only have employee funded retirements. Pay as you go sports should not be a problem for people - How many people pay for Dance, Karate,gymnastics and other outside lessons already. I know we do. If it is decided to get rid of kindergarten - which I can't see how it is being debated against sports- then you need to test the would be kindergarten children to see if they would be ready to start 1st grade earlier. My son is one of those kids who was delayed in starting kindergarten due to a November birth date and I know from my own experience with my son that the longer that he kept out of school, the lazier he becomes. And we've been told that he is bored in his Pre-K program which was set up much like a kindergarten class.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs.

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Northwestern Lehigh has been a model for elementary developmental guidance. With the current behavior problems in children, you are asking for more difficulties if you eliminate developmental guidance in all schools. Here are better ways to cut your budget if you haven't done them already: 1. Eliminate staff meetings, trainings, IU programs that require substitutes to cover classes. Send one member to a training and have inservices built around the feedback from those trainees. Sending building teams to the IU is very expensive. What do they really accomplish? Don't pay for teacher meals ever and don't pay for gas unless the drive is over a certain amount of miles and the trip is mandated by the district. Make sure that teachers car pool for such trips. 2. Have teachers come 1/2 hour early two days per month to have their meetings as part of the contract. Or, have trainings in the summer as part of a contract. 3. Check with counselors/teachers about screeners/tests. Don't buy anything that hasn't been tested by your staff with a sample. Make sure that your school psychologist isn't changing input forms for teachers too frequently. (They are expensive!) 4. Develop your own PSSA prep books. Skip the commercial models. 5. Check out www.allianceforchildhood.org and then decide what you should do about kindergarten. A half day play based kindergarten is cheaper and better for kids! 6. Don't provide items for teachers that they can buy for themselves: planning books, pens,etc. 7. Mandate that teachers use a code number to do copying to keep track of their paper use. After a certain amount of copying, they have to use faded paper or pay for paper. 8. Work with the community to have community sports take over for the district. Community coaches can use the district's facilities, but the district does not have to pay for athletics anymore. (For example, Tulpehocken School District in Bernville does not have a football team and the district is not raising taxes or cutting staff this year due to this savings and others.) These are a few tips, but I think that substitutes for data meetings and other conferences in most districts is over the top. Don't forget to get doctors' excuses for teachers who are absent more than two days in a row or who are absent collectively over 10 days!

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Many of the ideas you mention are on the “additional ideas for budget planning” list. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    All extra curricular activities have an assigned point value. All students receive a certain number of points to "spend" on activites. After a student "spends" all of their points, they may buy or fundraise for more. The point system needs to assign value based off of the cost for a student to use that activity. Thus, an activity that costs alot, would have the cost supplemented by the student. The same would happen if a student was in several activities, they would exhaust their points and have to buy more.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. A version of Pay to Participate is something the district is considering. There was a board presentation by Mr. Jason Zimmerman on March 10, 2011 to discuss this idea. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    I personally think that if the kids education is our number one priority, we should not even have to think about cutting any programs, period. The administration and teachers need to take pay cuts and no more of the outrageous increases they get every year. Why not give them a 1% raise each year like the rest of us tax payers or how about no raise each year like some tax payers have been dealing with. How much longer do you expect the tax payers to support this school district when the teacher and administative salary increases are above and beyond what the tax payers are getting. Our system is broken and it needs to start with salaries and benefits. Such as why do teachers get vacation days when they get off all summer and every holiday and snow day. Make them pay for their health care. And one question I do have is who is paying for the teachers union dues, the teachers or the school district. I attended the meeting which I thought was very informative. However, I still think you need to start your cut backs where the most spending is, that being salaries of teachers and administrators. Thank you very much

    Response: Thank You for your comment. The teacher’s union dues are paid for by the teachers. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    The district must consider ways to generate revenue other than property taxes if it desires to stay viable in the future. With rising costs - never ending - the current situation is not temporary. The district should consider working with the townships to develop commercial revenues. Without additional monies from the commercial sector, the district will likely remain in a difficult financial situation.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. We are constantly seeking alternative revenue sources to supplement district programs. Please see our FAQs.  

     

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    I didn't see any questions regarding asking teachers to consider making cuts. We mandated to our bus drivers to eliminate benefits. Teachers should consider the same. In the private sector (most of us tax payers), we have had to make major concessions in our jobs. Health care and retirement plans have been cut or outright eliminated. Public sector jobs must be willing to do the same. This must be a two way street. Based on the figures I have seen, our teachers and administrators earn more money than the average resident. This isn't in gross pay but in the total compensation package with benefits.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Your question is addressed within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    have we begun billing ACCESS for our IEP writing, nursing services, OT, PT, speech, etc? I aksed this a few years ago, and was told it's expensive and time consuming. however, in my district we have quite a few less administrative and secretarial positions, and our ACCESS billing is done as part of one secretary's job, and she does not have trouble managing it. I think we are missing out on funding if we are not doing this.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Your question is addressed within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Reduce teachers salaries.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Your comment is addressed within the Frequently Asked Questions. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    We are currently taxpaying residents who have 1 child that will enter kindergarten in 2012-2013. Jennifer is a NWLSD alumni and we have family that have lived in the district for more than 50 years. We believe the taxpayers are paying enough and should not be asked to pay more. Please consider the following: 1) Salaries/Benefits - a 7% reduction in overall salaries from 2010-2011 would save over 1 million dollars; 2) Transportation - re-evaluate all bus-stops w/ safety still in mind; middle & high school students can walk .5 - 1 mile on rural roads while elementary students can walk .25 -.5 miles to a stop; consider fees for creating a new stop; 3)Sports & Activities - $150 fee per major sport/activity, $50 fee per club; eliminate athletics, clubs, or activities that do not have 30 PARTICIPATING members (7-8 students from each class); ask for more contribution from booster clubs, fundraising, & alumni; ask for volunteers for assistant and jv coaches; 4) Kindergarten - impose fee of $100 per month per student for 10 months, (parents pay much more than this for daycare and preschool) 5) LCCC tuition payment - contribute only to those residents that have been taxpayers for 10+ years (this is the only benefit residents w/o children receive from the school district, we don't believe it should be taken away completely) 6) Increase class sizes 7) Limit field trips - one per year for elementary; impose fees for middle & high school trips Many people are feeling the effects of the recession and budget cuts. We all need to make sacrifices, including the administration, employees, students, and parents at Northwestern Lehigh. The taxpayers should not be forced to take the brunt of it. Thank you for your consideration in this important matter.

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Please see our FAQs. Many of the ideas you mention are on the “additional ideas for budget planning” list. 

     

    List your feedback for budget planning.:
    Why do you need 2 assistant principals at the High School? When I went to high school we had class sizes around 35. Why so much concern over class sizes?

    Response: Thank You for your comment. Since February 2011, the district has one principal and one assistant principal at the high school. Many educators, parents, and community members value class size a great deal because research reveals that smaller classes sizes yield increased academic achievement.