Top Bar

Lower Merion School District


Litigation FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions - And Answers - About The Budget-Related Litigation

Q: Does the court ruling interrupt in any way the start of the new school year next week?

A: No. It will be business as usual at all ten LMSD schools and we look forward to another successful school year.

Q: Does the court ruling automatically trigger a rebate and/or refund of school taxes already paid based on the 2016-2017 budget?

A: No. The court in issuing its opinion and order did not directly address that matter.

Q: Is the District appealing the court's order that includes directing the Board to repeal part of its tax increase for the current school year?

A: Yes. An appeal was filed the day after the order was issued.

Q: Has the Board, as alleged, misled, deceived taxpayers by knowingly budgeting a surplus that otherwise could have limited or eliminated the need for a tax increase?

A: No. The Board has not misled anyone: not the citizens of the District, not the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In fact, there has never been anything but transparency by every LMSD school board and administration going back decades when it comes to the budget process, including over the past several years since the enactment of Pennsylvania Act 1. The budget process is not only transparent, but it is conducted amid state-mandated checks and balances. Every budget is subject to review and approval by the state Department of Education.

Q: What was unique about the most recent budget process?

A: There was nothing unique about the 2016-17 budget process. The budgeting process, this and every other year, was open, legal and guided by responsible business judgment in the context of tremendous uncertainty about state pensions and the other unpredictable mandates that public school districts face every year.

Q: What is the District's approach to maintaining a sufficient Fund Balance?

A: Fund Balance is a reflection of the overall financial health of the District; our balance sheet you might say. Fortunately, we have been able to consistently maintain a favorable Fund Balance through careful strategic planning that balances our short and long terms needs, factoring numerous variables. These range from the perennial uncertainty surrounding state budget support to the fluid nature of myriad unfunded mandates.

Q: So, the District is free to impose any amount of a tax increase if the Board has enough required votes?

A: No. State law caps the amount a Board may increase real estate taxes year to year.

Q: But what about the court ruling that states the District was not legally justified in imposing a 4.4% tax increase?

A: It is our position the court misinterpreted the relevant state law and overstepped its authority.

Q: Can't the District afford to just say it was wrong and rebate the tax payments that the court determined should never have occurred?

A: It is not an issue of affordability. The District believes the court and the plaintiff were incorrect on the issue. We believe we will prevail on appeal.

Q: Can't the District cut expenses significantly by cutting back on a number of programs, such as music, world languages and athletics, that are not part of the core curriculum?

A: No, not if LMSD is to continue to provide educational excellence for all of its students and enable them to achieve their full potential as students and citizens.

Q: But what about the argument that if a family aspires to a world-class education in the LMSD, they can always send their children to private schools locally or elsewhere?

A: That argument runs counter to our mission as a public school district; a district of choice for our families that stands for world-class excellence.

Q: Do school districts, local governments and counties have to follow the same budgetary guidelines?

A: No. School districts are required to comply with Act 1, which has strict guidelines for increasing real estate taxes. Local governments and counties do not have these restrictions.

Q: Did the plaintiff succeed in compelling the District to refund more than $50 million to taxpayers?

A: No.

Q: While the court ruling only applies to LMSD, does it have broader implications?

A: Yes. It reflects a statewide disagreement over state laws about school budgets, specifically whether a county Common Pleas Court Judge even has the power to issue orders that effectively overturn PDE's authority to grant exceptions to a school district.

Q: Did you ever consider settling the case with the plaintiff?

A: There is nothing to settle in our opinion.

Q: The plaintiff - in media interviews - has been talking about possible criminal conduct; is that concerning?

A: No. This is certainly not a criminal case and there has been no criminal investigation. The allegation is false and irresponsible.