Monthly Archives: September 2014

PSERS – An Emerging Problem

UCFSD has historically been strong financially. And our current administration has done an excellent job navigating through the financial crisis of 2008-2009 without cutting back essential educational programs.

The next threat is now emerging.  Pennsylvania has a significantly under-funded state-run pension program called PSERS (“Peezers”), AKA the Public School Employees Retirement System.   And the program is 40% underfunded.   Pennsylvania’s credit rating was recently downgraded by Fitch, a bond rating agency, largely due to this unfunded pension liability.  See article here.

Although UCFSD did not create this problem, we will be dealing with it for many years to come.  And the impact to our District finances is material and potentially troubling.  Continue reading

Policy Committee – Strategy and Goals

I was sworn in as a board director on July 14, and within an hour I was handed my first assignment — to chair the policy committee.  My predecessor had been the policy committee chair, and the vice chair did not want to assignment, so I was pleased to take on this role.

I spent the first two weeks learning about school governance, meeting leaders in the administration, and reading the board policy manual.    What I learned is that Board Policies are the one of the three main ways that the Board acts and exercises its authority (the other two are hiring/managing the superintendent, and setting the annual budget.)  Policies set all of the key rules for the district, and policies also link UCFSD practices to those required by state and federal law.     Continue reading

Prevailing Wage Costs Schools Real Money

The so called ‘prevailing wage’ law requires school districts in Pennsylvania to pay union-level wages and benefits on any construction projects valued at over $50,000.

Even if non-union labor is used, and even if contractors are willing to do the work for less than ‘prevailing wage’, the law requires schools to pay extra for the work.   Estimates are that schools end up over-paying for construction projects by 10%-20%.   An editorial today highlighted the problems with this law.

UCFSD does not have any large construction projects at the moment, so this is not a hot issue.  But current school taxes go to pay the bond interest and principle from our recent construction projects (like Unionville High School) so in some ways we are still paying for the ‘prevailing wage’ we had to pay on prior projects.

This law is outdated, unnecessary, and a burden that school districts don’t need.  Private companies, private colleges, and real estate developers pay the real prevailing wage on their projects …. the wage that contractors actually charge for the work, in a competitive bidding process!  Public schools should be able to do the same.


Redistricting Study Announced

pocopson elemPocopson Elementary’s enrollment rose to 652 students this year, putting it just about at full capacity.  District Administration recommends that we study the capacity issue over the next 6 months, with redistricting being a potential outcome.  See the presentation delivered to the Board on September 8:   Redistricting Presentation Sept 8 2014.

Among the questions to be answered is whether the uptick in enrollment is likely to be temporary or permanent, and if Pocopson is indeed projected to be over-capacity, then what should be done.

As a parent of Pocopson students, I am personally very interested in this issue.     I will provide updates on my blog at significant points, and will also be soliciting comments from parents and taxpayers along the way.

I encourage community members to email me with questions or concerns.  Or subscribe to my blog to keep up to date.