We taxpayers of the Great Valley School District have a major problem - the constantly increasing taxation by the School Board. Over the past 13 years our millage rate has increased 69%! Has your income had a comparable increase? What about your property value? Has it risen equally? And for the 2013-2014 school year the Board is seriously considering another 3.4% increase.
Act 1 of the state law this year allows a 1.7% increase without any special action by the Board. Two neighboring districts - West Chester and Tredyffrin-Easttown - are staying within this Act 1 parameter. For our district a 1.7% rise in taxes would yield $1,069,212.00 in income for the coming school year; but there would be a shortfall (as to overall income) of $430,292.00. The Board has on hand $26 Million in unrestricted reserves. These funds are in CDs - only 2 of which earn .5% - and less than that for the rest. The Board’s current intent is to double the tax rate to 3.4% and create a surplus of $860,000.00 to be added to the very low income producing reserves instead of balancing the budget by taking less than 2% from those reserves.
Naturally any increase in the millage rate or the budget creates a larger base for any future year.
The theoretical basis of the present structure is analogous to a three-legged stool oneleg for the taxpayers; a second leg for the School Board; and a third for the teachers. The Board is elected by the taxpayers and in relationship to the teachers is supposed to represent the taxpayers. Unfortunately in the recent past, this has not been the practice. Under the immediate past Superintendent there developed a culture of cozy collaboration between the Board and the teachers rather than an arms length collective bargaining. This has literally left the taxpayers holding the bag. Special interests have led to the election of “co-operative and collaborating” Board members. Inevitably when one leg of the stool does not function as it should, there is a problem. If the Board ceases to be objective, we taxpayers pay the price.
Our teachers average $80,000.00 per year in income with an additional 43% in benefits. Over 40 teachers earn $100,000.00 or more. At $18,000.00 per pupil per year Great Valley is the third highest district in Chester County - behind only Phoenixville and Coatesville.
Probably little known to most taxpayers is the fact that the former Superintendent somehow convinced a compliant Board to purchase a lot for $6.6 Million. It is currently assessed at $4 Million. Perhaps that is a source to close the shortfall rather than hitting the pocketbooks of the taxpayers. Alternatively, Vanguard may be purchasing property from Wyeth, the transfer tax on which could yield as much as $390,000. Surely $40,000.00 (.05%) could be found as savings in an $80 Million budget.
Unless more of us taxpayers are informed, pay attention to decisions by the School Board, and get involved to make a difference, we will continue to pay and pay more.