The Ever Increasing Budget, Snow Days, and Dependent Eligibility

This past Monday included the Finance Committee, the Policy Committee, and Regular School Board Meetings.

Dependent Eligibility Audit

Because of Obamacare’s sub-26 requirement, being a self-insurer, and the rising costs of healthcare, the District has been left with little option but to investigate and pursue a Dependent Eligibility Audit.

Each year, health care plans unknowingly subsidize the cost of health care benefits for ineligible dependents. Without an effective eligibility verification process in place, the District could be spending hundreds of thousands every year on completely unnecessary health care expenses.

Dependent Eligibility Audits will demand proof that spouses and children qualify for medical benefits, with some reports claim audits are finding up to 15% of those claimed as dependents aren’t entitled to coverage. The District will be providing a period to remove ineligible dependents without penalty. However, the Board is also investigating all possible administrative and legal remedies against those who fraudulently claim ineligible dependents moving forward.

Parcel 8-3-24

The Board was informed that a property (undeveloped lot) on Green Street, in Parkesburg, went to Judicial Sale with $3,677.35 in unpaid property taxes by the owners (Crystal Springs). The Chester County Tax Claim Bureau has received a bid, and will be selling the property for $500. The sale removes liens for the unpaid taxes, and will be owned free and clear. The Assessed Value of the property is $18,000.

Budget Discussion

Budget Discussions are heating up during Finance Committee Meetings, and I suspect will eventually overflow in the Board Meetings. Here is the reality:

  • Actual costs have remained flat at $44.3 Million over the last 3 years, while budgets have continued to grow.
  • Since 2009-10, the gap between Actual Costs and the Budgets have grown from $659,023 to $2,387,726 in 2012-13.
  • The District Business Office is currently projecting the 2013-14 year will end with actual costs of $46.9 Million, despite the actual overall costs trending flat again this year.
  • If Actual Costs remains flat again this year, the over-budgeting will have increased to $3.2 Million.

The position of the District Business Office is that growing the budget is necessary, independent of Actual Costs. My question, which has gone unanswered, is how large does the over-budgeting have to become until the District stops asking to have the Budget increase, and asking taxpayers to pay more for less?

From my point of view, the over-budgeting equates to over-taxing. How can the District legitimating discuss cutting or adding programs, when the Budget numbers are increasingly becoming more and more fictitious and out of line with Actual Costs?

Making Up Snow Days

MAKING-UP-SNOW-DAYS

During the Regular Board Meeting, there was a lengthy discussion about how to address all the time missed by this year’s snow and ice. Dr Newcome informed the Board that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has been asked by the Legislature to interpret how to make up time regulations broadly this year, giving School Districts the most flexibility.

The Board will be given options in March, which may include adding days to the end of the year or adding time to the school day. The Public is encouraged to both attend meetings, and contact Board Members in their Region to voice their opinions.

15 thoughts on “The Ever Increasing Budget, Snow Days, and Dependent Eligibility

  1. Can you explain how the judicial sale of the tax parcel removes the liens for unpaid taxes? I always thought that as a result of such sales, the buyer gets a bargain price on the property but must also pay off the tax liens.

    • If the Bureau receives no bids equal to the upset price, the Court orders the Bureau to sell the property to the highest bidder freed and cleared of all respective tax and municipal claims, liens, mortgages, charges and estates, except separately taxed ground rents.

      • It doesn’t seem right that the tax liens, mortgages, etc. can be dismissed. And, doesn’t it cost the school district, county and municipalities to file the liens in the first place?

      • I would have to look into that for you. It my be a cost incurred by our Tax Collector. It wasn’t brought up in the meeting, but my understanding is that it doesn’t absolve the debtor, just frees the property. However, the costs would probably outweigh the benefit to pursue for the amount here.

      • As is often the case, the cost usually does outweigh the benefit. Tim, thanks again for the info and quick responses.

  2. How is it that other districts have made decisions and implemented plans to make up snow days, and Octorara won’t be discussing it until March? This is just like the last minute announcements about Kindergarten! I think the school year should be extended, and if this is the decision many people are going to have to change summer plans. I feel as if our school board is always making decisions at the last minute!

    • As I understand it, if we want to just add days to the end of the school year, the Board can do that as long as District does not go past June 30th. However, if we want to explore other options (like adding time to the school day) to try and keep the school year somewhat on pace, we need to apply to the State first.

  3. Is that why the board will be given the options in March? Has the board looked at how adding time to the day will affect the education of our children? Have teacher been asked if they can complete all planned lessons by adding time to the day, or will full class session be needed? I beleive it will be easier for all of the adults involved to extend the school day, but will it benefit our children’s educations? Isn’t that the point???

    • That is what the Board is looking at… what is the best option, all things considered? I could be wrong, but I doubt the Districts that have already voted to add days have truly taken taken the time to look at all possible options for the best solution. Moreover, the quick votes do not give the public time to give their input.

  4. I know you are no fan of the Affordable Care Act, but since the district is self-insured and healthcare costs have always continued to rise and since having ineligibles on one’s plan is not a new situation, I would think it prudent to do periodic audits. When these are done with some level of frequency over time employees pay more attention and are less likely to carry an ineligible. I know that the ACA added children up to 26, but this issue is really not “Because” of the Affordable Care Act. I would see that characterization as editorializing. Afterall, the Act is the Act. If someone is breaking the rules, that is not the fault of the rule that is the fault of the individual.

    • True. However, Obamacare’s sub-26 requirement adds to the opportunity to have ineligibles on the rolls. Moreover, Obamacare is one of the reasons the Districts costs associated with healthcare are going up as drastically as they are outside of possible ineligibles… from paying for the healthcare of the sub-26 group to the additional taxes, implantation of Obamacare is a major hit to the District’s budget.

  5. Not to stoke this debate, but a past employer used to require us to verify our dependent coverage every year, and that was way before Obamacare.

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