Board Approves Preliminary Budget, Public Meetings Continue
The Board of School Directors approved the 2016-17 LMSD Preliminary Budget in late January. The Preliminary Budget is subject to change and serves as a starting point each year in a comprehensive public process that concludes with Final Budget adoption in June. It establishes a millage (tax) rate that cannot be increased in the final budget. This year's Preliminary Budget calls for a 4.4% tax increase to maintain existing programs and cover new costs related to enrollment growth, personnel (salaries and benefits) and mandates, including rising retirement and special education costs. In the spring, the Board is required to approve a Proposed Final Budget, a more refined budget document that forms the foundation for adoption of a Final Budget in June. The District is making every effort to ensure the most fiscally-responsible final budget. Superintendent Copeland is leading a comprehensive administrative review of all areas of the budget to identify opportunities for cost-savings and greater efficiencies.
Fixed costs, including salaries, benefits and debt service, continue to be the key drivers in the 2015-16 budget, accounting for nearly 88% of expenditures. The preliminary budget represents the realities of a challenging economic environment. The need for additional revenue has been exacerbated by minimal increases in funding from state and federal sources, unfunded/underfunded mandates and the highest level of enrollment growth among any district in Southeastern PA. The District can maintain current, comprehensive academic programs K-12, all co-curricular activities and instructional and support staffing levels with the funding proposed in the Preliminary Budget.
Lower Merion School District has extensive information on its website about the 2016-17 budget process, including a set of Frequently Asked Questions and list of upcoming budget presentations, available by clicking here. The District encourages community members to review this information to better understand the budget and current funding challenges facing public education in Lower Merion and across the Commonwealth.
Refinancing of Bonds to Yield $9.8M in Savings
The Board recently approved the refunding of General Obligation Bonds (Series A of 2006 and advance refunded General Obligation Bonds, Series of 2007 currently outstanding). Refunding of these two series of bonds will yield $9.8 million of savings, the majority of which is spread over a six-year period. Additionally, Moody's has affirmed the District's Aaa bond rating and stable financial outlook citing the District's "large wealthy tax base, strong financial position, average debt burden, and above average pension liability…The stable outlook reflects the district's strong and stable reserve levels which we expect to be maintained over the next few years." To read the full resolution to proceed with refinancing of the bonds, click here.
Strategic Planning Steering Committee Reconvenes
The Strategic Plan Steering Committee reconvened last month to discuss plan progress and updates with the District's strategic planning leadership team. The meeting included a presentation on recent highlights related to each of the plan's five pathways, the focus on "transformative curriculum" as the guiding pathway for the plan, the introduction of pathway "teams" (smaller working groups made up of District stakeholders focused on plan implementation) and an overview of the role of consultants in the planning work. The group also discussed the interdependencies of all five pathways, with continued emphasis on transformative curriculum as a central focus. Steering committee members had an opportunity to offer feedback and provide reflections on the work to date. To view a PDF of the PowerPoint from the meeting, click here.
Search for New Gladwyne, Harriton Principals Accelerates
The search for new principals at Gladwyne Elementary School and Harriton High School is now accelerating and the District is hopeful that final candidates will be identified this spring. Both positions were posted in early February and drew extensive interest from a number of qualified candidates. Small teams at each school recently narrowed the candidate pool to a small group of finalists. These finalists will proceed to the next round of interviews in mid-March, in a process that will involve meetings and interviews with a larger group of staff, parents and students. A final candidate will be advanced to the Board of School Directors in April.
Board Approves Superintendent's Goals
The LMSD Board of School Directors has agreed upon objective performance standards for Superintendent Robert Copeland for 2015-16. The goals are presented in two categories. The first, "Priority Goals" are goals that are specific to the Lower Merion School District. While subsumed within the state mandated protocol, both the Board of School Directors and the Superintendent felt it important to highlight and emphasize goals that will be focused on during the 2015-2016 school year. The second, "Objective Performance Standards" are generic goals required by all Superintendents working in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To view, click here.
District Opens K-1 Registration for 2016-17 school year
K-1 registration for Lower Merion School District for 2016-17 opened last month. Registration info is available online at www.lmsd.org/register. Families seeking to register their child/ren must complete the online application first, and then contact 610-658-3996 to schedule an appointment to come to the Central Registration office and submit required documents and proofs. All registrations are by appointment only. Students in all other grades (2nd through 12th) may register beginning in April.
To be eligible for kindergarten, a child must be five years of age on or before September 1, 2016. For children who will be entering a Lower Merion School District school for the first time in the fall of 2015 as a first grader, the child must be 6 years of age on or before September 1, 2016. Registration dates for each school are posted on www.lmsd.org/register. Interpreter services available upon request by calling 610-658-3996. To view a detailed FAQ regarding the Registration Process, click here.
Upcoming Ask the Superintendent Dates
Join Superintendent Robert Copeland for his continuing series of "Ask the Superintendent" events this spring. These events serve as open, public forums for community members to ask questions and engage in conversations about LMSD schools. Upcoming dates include Sunday, April 3, 2016 at 3 PM in the Academy Building (campus of Bala Cynwyd Middle School) and Wednesday, May 11 at 8:30 AM in the District Administration Office/Board Room. All are welcome.