Superintendent Meets with Community on Budget Concerns


Bridget Phillips

Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich lead a community budget forum in March of 2012.

Jill Harrington, Bridget Phillips, Staff Writers

TOWAMENCIN – On Monday March 11th, Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich held a community forum allowing parents, students, and community members to voice their questions and concerns regarding the 2012-2013 budgeting issue.  The forum was audience driven, as Dietrich was open to input from all in attendance or viewing the meeting via NPTV.  The Superintendent was available after the forum to answer personal questions regarding the topics discussed.

“I was really pleased with how it went. It was a great opportunity to talk about how complicated school budgets are.  I got to be a bit of a teacher. I loved teaching—I was a teacher before I was a principal and then superintendent.  I felt like I was a teacher again explaining how the state and local budget works, and how I could help everyone here understand that. I also really appreciated the show of support for our school programs.  We had parents here saying ‘school is important to me, and I want to have a really strong school system.’  That was a great message for our community,” said Dietrich.

The forum commenced with an explanation of the causes of the budget difficulty this year.  Aligned with the status of our nation’s economy, our state has a decreased budget which translates directly to monetary concerns for our district.  Dietrich explained that North Penn is facing a “structural deficit,” which essentially means that growth in expenditures exceeds growth in income.  This issue can be attributed to the falling incomes of residents paying the school taxes.

Dietrich went on to explain that the state government will be issuing “block grants” this year.  Rather than having a set limit for each expenditure, the limits will be grouped into categories.  For example, a grant could be given for transportation as a whole, which would include fuel, repairs, and all other aspects involved.  He described that a positive of these block grants is the increased flexibility.  However, on the flip side, the grants would limit sensitivity to actual and variable costs such as fuel prices which are constantly fluctuating.

Alternative revenue ideas were suggested by both Dietrich and the audience members.  NPSD could initiate a “University Model,” which would entail alumni development, grant opportunities, fundraising, and planned giving.  Advertising, including naming rights, sponsorships, trade marking, user fees, and fund development is also a competing option.  One audience member suggested a switch to either solar energy or geothermal energy in the district’s buildings.

After each segment of the presentation, the audience was allowed two minutes to discuss with a neighbor what they heard and share ideas.  Immediately following, Dietrich addressed questions and concerns.

The district’s music department was a major tenet of the group discussion.  Multiple teachers, parents, and students voiced their firm belief in the value and enrichment of the arts.  Elementary teacher and parent Tracy Calvaresi explained her reasoning for supporting the music program.

“I think that [the district] is in a tough position, but I think that we need to fully recognize the value in music education, and as a musician I see it for its own purpose—for the art that it is, the beauty and expression it brings to peoples’ lives.  But if truly they’re concerned about the academic success of the students, then they can just look at the studies, and they can see there are numbers.  If we’re going to go beyond being artsy and look at science, look at the numbers! They show that the kids who are involved in music are the kids who succeed academically and later in life.  It’s got to be given a lot of weight in this decision making,” Calvaresi said.

As a whole, the forum was very informative for all involved.  Although everyone realizes the economic predicament will be no easy task to overcome, the dedication and concern of parents and teachers is certainly a step in the right direction.  For further information or for input on your questions or concerns, email [email protected].