January 17, 2014
I was quite disappointed to read the factually incorrect article in the Intelligencer this morning and sent the following communication to the Intelligencer editorial board and reporter. While I have requested the following communication, in its entirety, accompany the retraction, I want you to immediately have the facts.
As Superintendent of Schools, I am compelled to demand a retraction of the article that appeared today in the Intelligencer in reference to a potential tax hike in our New Hope-Solebury School District. The article recklessly and irresponsibly presents incorrect information from start to finish which may cause unnecessary upset in our community.
- Your article states “the small district will need to raise taxes between 3% to 4.6% to preserve its 8% fund balance.” THE FACTS: In this early stage of the budget process, we already have the proposed budget increase reduced to the Act 1 index of 2.1% inclusive of everything listed below:
- 8% uncommitted fund balance.
- Separate $1.2 million dollar committed fund balance responsibly reserved for future retirement system (PSERS) increases.
- All staffing costs.
- PSER’s increased contribution rate of 21.4%.
- Important new educational needs and programs for our students such as our ambitious, three year, technology plan to ensure our students have the most state of the art technology for our educational programs.
- Your article presents the estimated tax payer cost range of 3% to 4.6% tax increase. THE QUESTION: As the school district is clearly down to a proposed budget increase of 2.1% and working to get it as low as possible, what was the purpose of falsely reporting a higher proposed budget increase?
- Your article states that our “budget reflects dipping into the fund balance” without explaining the detail. THE FACTS: As a result of making difficult cuts last year and tightening our belts on expenditures, the school district is appropriately utilizing the resulting efforts of funds that exceeded our 8% uncommitted fund balance to both meet the needs of children and to minimize the proposed tax increase for our community.
- Your article states “the addition of three teacher leader positions are partly responsible for the jump in spending.” THE FACTS: As I presented to the Intelligencer editorial board, in person, this summer, the three lead teachers were of no cost because they were achieved through eliminating other staff positions.
- As a final incorrect fact, your article states our next public School Board meeting is February 4 when it is scheduled for February 18.
In my seventh year as Superintendent, I have been fortunate to work with School Boards dedicated to preserving and improving an outstanding school district in a fiscally responsible manner. As a result, we have maintained the lowest tax rate in Bucks County supporting one of the highest performing school districts in the country. Our School Board President, Joseph Harraka, and our School Board Finance Chair, Neale Dougherty, stated clearly in public that their expectation was for our Administration to bring in a budget at the Act 1 index of 2.1% or preferably far less. As we have done in the past, the School Board did authorize our Administration to responsibly apply for the Act 1 exceptions. However, regardless of whether or not we are approved, our school district has never utilized the exceptions, and our intent is to not utilize them in the future.
I invite every interested member of our wonderful community to personally contact me, our School Board President, our Finance Committee Chair, or our Business Administrator, Stuart Perrone, to ask any questions, and to learn more about the facts that were recklessly misreported in this article.
Dr. Raymond J. Boccuti
New Hope-Solebury School District
180 W. Bridge Street
New Hope, PA 18938