Dear Community Members,
We learned today that the Commonwealth Court denied Lower Merion School District's appeal of a case involving the authority of the Lower Merion Board of School Directors to enact a tax increase to support school programs and student achievement. Last August Judge Joseph Smyth ordered the District to refund a portion of its 2016-17 tax increase and to cap the budget increase for that year at 2.4 percent, despite the District receiving all necessary approvals from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and achieving unanimous support from our locally-elected Board of School Directors. Recent LMSD budget increases have been driven by the Board's commitment to maintain programs and low class sizes as well as preserve fiscal stability in the face of rising state-mandated costs and the largest enrollment increases in the Commonwealth.
While we respectfully disagree with the decision of the Court, we are encouraged that the Court did not rule that either the Board of School Directors or District acted illegally or improperly. The decision is based not on the merits of the case, but on an interpretation of Pennsylvania civil procedure. In short, the Court did not reach the question of whether there was wrongdoing by the District. In fact, the Court did not decide whether Judge Smyth was right or wrong; it decided that it would not address the central issues of the case based on a procedural issue.
The District will thoroughly review the decision and carefully consider the next steps in our challenge of this case. We look forward to the opportunity to present our arguments in full.
We are grateful for the ongoing support and encouragement of residents and organizations across the state that continue to advocate on our behalf. This is an important case with significant consequences. We look forward to our continued, shared efforts to preserve and protect quality public education and the democratic principles of local control. We will continue to keep you apprised on this case in the weeks ahead.
Dr. Robin Vann Lynch
President, Board of School Directors