The Jan. 31 Colonial School Board Town Hall Meeting, featuring a budget and services overview, as well as a presentation on a proposed annual giving plan, was described as a “roller coaster ride" by board chair Alan Tabachnick.
According to Colonial School District Business Administrator Trevor Jackson, the school district is currently facing a $4.6 million shortfall, which accounts for the Act 1 Index of a 1.7 percent tax increase in addition to exemptions due to retirement contributions, which will allow for a higher tax increase, to be discussed at the board's Feb. 14 meeting.
This shortfall is due in part to diminishing resources after the 2008 market fallout, decreased federal and state funding paired with underfunded mandates, dramatic increases to the Pennsylvania State Retirement System, rising healthcare costs and increasing special education costs.
Jackson said that the district cut $7 million over the last two budgets in an attempt to conserve funds, including reducing staff by 34 positions, refinancing bonds and successfully negotiating new contracts to save money.
“We’ve managed to weather the storm to this point, but it’s getting more rough moving on,” Jackson said.
“Successful Despite Challenges”
While the school is facing budgetary issues, the board pointed out all of the success it has enjoyed in recent years.
School Board Member Mel Brodsky cited the “value added programs that continue to be offered with no additional cost to families – full-day kindergarten, academic competitions, athletics, arts and humanities, and more. These programs have an estimated cost of $4 million per year – which Jackson pointed out, is just under the deficit amount.
Last year, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School was listed in the Top 100 High Schools by Philadelphia Magazine and in the Top 1,000 according to Newsweek; Ridge Park was voted a Blue Ribbon School, and Whitemarsh Elementary is on the way to wards that distinction, according to Brodsky.
Brodsky pointed out that he visited a high school biology class in which students were using iPads as supplemental learning tools.
“Where are we going to get the money from if we’re going to continue to progress,” Brodsky asked.
Tabachnick said that, because the board did not want to cut core programming, it was necessary to look at increasing revenue.
“We have to advocate for ourselves; we have to generate revenue for ourselves; we have to protect programs and the things that make Colonial special,” Tabachnick said. “Because we can’t rely on anybody else to do that for us.”
Colonial Community Relations Director David Sherman highlighted an advertising plan that was previously approved by the board, which would allow advertising to be sold in the gymnasium and stadiums – not in the school itself.
“We’re not expecting this to be an exorbitant revenue stream, but it is something else,” said Sherman.
Tabachnick, head of the fundraising committee, presented a new potential revenue stream - an annual giving campaign in conjunction with Colonial School District Education Foundation that will kick off late next month.
The school will reach out to staff members, parents, community members and local businesses with the goal to fund the school district’s $4 million in value-added programs – which would also go a long way in eliminating the district’s shortfall.
Tabachnick also said that major gift and capital campaigns are also being explored.
Tabachnick said this committee plans to follow “a little bit of a private school model,” which will include major gift and capital campaigns.
“The strength of our school Ddstrict is the core of our community,” said Tabachnick. “We are looking for everyone to help and participate.”
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Advertising Coming to Colonial Schools