Tuesday, April 08, 2008

City school board warned to cut budget

City school board warned to cut budget: "More budget cuts are coming to the Pittsburgh Public Schools, officials warned last night, raising new questions about what the district will do about under-used high schools and capital projects.
The sky is falling.

Clarification needed: What is a "utility cost?"

I'm sending an email to the P-G reporter, Joe S.

Is that the overall cost of the building? Is it the cost of heat, light, water? Is it the cost of capital elements within the budget? Are teachers, administrators, building support people part of this 'utility cost?' Or are just some of those expenses included?
The district in recent years has closed 22 schools and eliminated hundreds of positions, many through attrition. But to put the district on solid financial footing for the long term, Mr. Berdnik proposed a 10 percent spending cut in 2009, another 10 percent cut in 2010 and 3 percent cuts in years after that.

"Part of our challenge continues to be to right-size district staff to enrollment," Mr. Berdnik said, meaning the district still has more employees than needed.

Mr. Berdnik also repeated an earlier warning that capital projects are straining the district coffers.

The latest alert comes as parents lobby for a renovation of Pittsburgh Schenley, which Mr. Roosevelt proposed closing at the end of the school year because he said the district could not afford $64 million in needed renovations to the Oakland building. Mr. Roosevelt said the remarks about capital projects were not directed at Schenley supporters but were intended to urge board members to be "cautious" about spending.
Pgh Public Schools needs to cut staff because so many families are cutting out of the city. The population decline happens because parents are NOT happy with the life in the city, and at the city schools.

The value of the city education while living in a city home is fleeting. Hence, the families with the ability to depart often do.

Cuts are needed because QUALITY has been cut.

The fix is not more cuts. The real fix has to do with doing a better job with the kids and with the families and with the volunteers so people stay in the city, learn, feel safe, have solid expectations that life can be trusted and people can thrive.

Just as the Brimingham Bridge failure was known 20 years ago and nothing was done about it -- same to with this school saga. The inspectors knew that the bridge had troubles. Yet nothing was done. Recently, life came to a crawl -- making a living hell for everyone from miles around when the bridge was closed. Today the bridge is only at one lane in both directions.

They ignore problems.

Staffing isn't the real problem of Pgh Public Schools. The real problem is what happens in and around our schools in the school day and beyond. The problem is the 10,000 students that are NOT there because they departed in recent times.

The closing of Schenley High School is another signal that 500 families are going to depart the city. Schenley's closing is stupid and Mark Roosevelt's fault.


M (not Matt) H said...

The schools need to cut staff and facilities in proportion to the enrollment decline. Those families that left not only took their kids out of school, they took their tax dollars out of the city. To hold spending constant requires increasing taxes on those of us that are still here. And, I think taxes are driving out more people than poor schools.

Mark Rauterkus said...

This is sorta wrong -- and -- by what I stand for -- it is very wrong.

The policy should be a "LAND VALUE TAX." The taxes would be on the LAND -- something that can't be 'uprooted' to the suburban districts unless they annex the land to Shaler, etc.

We need to tax the land. Then, there won't be a problem with people moving out of here.

I don't want to tax the incomes. I don't want to tax the drink. I don't want to tax nonprofits.

So, yes, taxes are killing the city and the city got away from the land value tax that was our legacy for many decades. The boom times in Pittsburgh came about, in part, because of the land value tax policies. The land tax helped to keep the housing prices so affordable.

Bob O'Connor and Tom Murphy -- with the help of Sabre Systems -- (Jim Roddey too) put a few nails into the coffin of the land value tax and helped spin these situations out of control.

They can be fixed!

M (not Matt) H said...

Your solution would only shift the burden around a bit and fix nothing. The only way to avoid tax hikes in a declining population is to cut spending. Land may not move, but land value is based on supply and demand. If people move out of the city, land values drop and tax rates go up if spending isn't cut. There are already large areas of Pittsburgh where the land value is not far from zero and higher land taxes in those situations would just result in abandoned property.

Mark Rauterkus said...

My solution fixes the problem and the perception that was raised in the top of this thread.

Tax money can't 'depart' the city as real property should be the basis of tax incomes.

The population can decline or rise without a tax hike because the taxes is based on the land. The land isn't moving.

Population isn't a factor in the taxes.

People who own land can reside anywhere. The land owners pay the taxes.

Land value will increase in the city when the taxes are taken off of the people and taken off of the productive land uses. The land that is not productive is given a tax break in today's system, wrongly.

Sure, spending is important. No doubt. But, the formula is not bogus and should be understood.

The land value tax will work against the speeding trend of abandoned property better than any other taxing plan.

M (not Matt) H said...

If you want to tax only land and don't want to have drastic cuts in services, you will have to have a very, very high millage rate. Yes, this will encourage people to try to get as much value out of the land as possible. However, in many cases, there simply won't be a use that could pay the higher taxes plus the cost of development while still leaving a profit. In that case, sooner or later, the owner will simply stop paying the taxes and let the city/county take the land. While you can't take land out of the city, you also can't make somebody pay you taxes on land that they can't make a profit on unless you want to bring back debtor's prison.

I don't know why PPS enrollment is plummeting or how to fix it. But, enrollment is down, has been dropping for years, and nobody sees a rebound. Why shouldn't the taxpayers get to keep some of the money used to educate the kids that aren't there anymore?

Mark Rauterkus said...

PPS is in decline because of 'discipline' -- mainly.

This was to be the year of discipline too.

It isn't working for our kids' experiences.

A rebound effort would get volunteers into the schools -- in school times and beyond, such as afterschool, nights, weekends and summers. Coaches, etc. The district can't pay them -- so they need to be volunteers.

Community needs to happen at the schools -- and that is failing.

Of course taxpayers should NOT be paying for a district that has the capacity for 25,000 but the enrollment of 16,000.

Anonymous said...

Mark, you and your situation are the exception. For many, the amount of time available to volunteer is limited. The forces that cause the limitation are endless and have been discussed to death. I spent a lot of time as a classroom volunteer several years ago. I saw paid non-professional staff and other volunteers work with kids. I had chills when I heard adults use "yunz" and "ain't" and double negatives with our most impressionable students. Volunteers have their place of course. A caring adult can turn a kid's world around. Leave the classroom work to the professionals.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I understand that my situation(s) are unique.

Volunteers are with limited capacities.

I think that the 'non-professionals' need to be engaged as much as possible in the afterschool, evening, weekend, summer periods. The in-school time is for teachers.

I feel that the main role of he volunteers in the schools is to monitor -- help with plans -- help and assist beyond the classroom. That's the overall networking value and the strength of the nodes. Nods to the idea of caring adults that leave the classroom work to the professionals. Sure.