Issues

Real Estate Taxes

Long term residents of Saucon Valley will remember the large mill increases in the middle of the last decade. Real estate taxes went up 30% in three years. Fortunately the rate increases came to an end in 2009 and taxes have been flat since. State law has also changed making it difficult for school boards to raise rates each year more than an amount prescribed by the state.

This protection from school boards is countered by the state's agreements related to pensions and medical care. The legislators gave themselves and many other public employees, including our teachers, substantial increases. Unfortunately, our legislators decided not to save for the new benefits for ten years. That ten year period ended five years ago and since then our schools' expenses have risen dramatically. In a recent five-year financial projection, the District administration forecast annual deficits of over $1 million as far as the eye can see. And that includes maximum annual tax increases of about 3% every year. At this rate it will not take long to burn through our savings, so we need to start making tough decisions right now.

The challenge facing our school board is to deal with these difficult financial demands while striving to protect taxpayers and our children's education. Cedric will vote to spend tax payer dollars only for items central to the mission of educating our children.

Racial Tension

Saucon Valley has been in the news recently related to multiple incidents of racial bullying. Just a few months ago several families spoke at the school board meeting to complain about how their children have experienced this. The administration has taken some steps to deal with this, but should do more. In particular, communication with the community is important, especially when we are in the news. More importantly, our students should participate in large and small group settings to learn and discuss more about racial bullying and how hurtful it is. We will not be able to change everyone's behavior, but we need to give our students who want to do the right thing the knowledge and confidence to push back when they see problem behavior, and to avoid it themselves.

Legislative Uncertainty

Our district faces risk from changes in the law that are much higher than usual. With the most recent election, new leaders in Washington could affect our federal funding and new legislators in Harrisburg could eliminate our district's primary source of funds, the real estate tax. Fortunately, only around 1% of our funds come from the federal government so that risk is small. If our state legislators change our primary source of funds from the real estate tax to income and sales taxes, that will have a huge effect on how we manage our finances. The real estate tax is stable from year to year like our school expenses. Income and sales taxes vary with the economy, which we know can take a roller coaster ride. We will also be dependent on legislators to determine what share of state resources to give to education. They could change their priorities at any time.

All this means that our school board cannot run on auto-pilot. Cedric will use his business experience dealing with the ups and downs of the economy and background in accounting and financial forecasting to help steer our district through whatever changes come our way.

School Performance

Saucon Valley has good schools. Our performance rating for the high school is in the top 10% in Pennsylvania. The middle school is in the top 20%. In comparison, our elementary school is struggling, ranking near the mid-point of all Pennsylvania elementary schools. To see more detail about how we compare to other schools in our state, click on these links and look at the first chart (High SchoolMiddle SchoolElementary School).

Often we hear that the problems start in elementary school and kids get further and further behind until they fail in high school. We face this prospect right now as many of our youngsters struggle to learn the basics. Saucon Valley school rankings have varied a lot over the years, both up and down. Some attribute these changes to random variation and demographics. It doesn't really matter, though, as our schools must educate the students that live in our district. The current administration has put changes in place in the past few years to better address our students' needs and the results will soon become apparent. We cannot be complacent. The future of our students depends on a quality education, especially in this age of job competition with robots and the global community. Also, a significant share of the value of our real estate depends on school performance.

We have a good school system, and we have the ingredients for a great one. Cedric wants to work with other board members, administrators and teachers to move our schools toward great.
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