The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Phoenixville community committee releases recommendations for school district


By Frank Otto, fotto@journalregister.com

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

PHOENIXVILLE — For the second year, the Phoenixville Area School District’s Community Budget Advisory Committee presented their recommendations to the school board for the 2013-14 school year at a special meeting 2013-14.
Made up of 15 community members supported by the school district’s administration and staff, the Community Budget Advisory Committee looks into ways to adjust the district’s budget throughout the year and presents their finding for consideration by the school board.
A focus of several recommendations put forth by the committee revolved around marketing strategies by the school district to make it a “school of choice” in the community, a term Superintendent Alan Fegley has used in past presentations.
By focusing on and improving marketing strategies for the district, it will be easier to “maintain and build school enrollment,” as well as “leverage available facilities to drive revenue,” according to the presentation.
The committee brought up charter schools as competition to the district. With 365 district students enrolled in charters and more than $4.5 million spent by the district to educate those students, the idea to gain back students through creating a communication plan or “campaign” to “target all (district) families,” offering open houses and “leverag(ing) opportunities to get families into the school district early.”
In gaining back some of the charter students, some funding could be restored to the Phoenixville Area School District. If just 1 percent of the students, which comes out to four pupils, came back, the committee figures the district would regain $51,600 for their budget.
By offering full-day kindergarten through the district, the committee also predicted Phoenixville might see some students return to the school district. If just three returned, the committee claimed there’d be an annual savings of $38,700, which would turn into a savings of $503,100 total if the students continued in Phoenixville through graduation as opposed to going to a charter school.
The committee also recommended a continued partnership of the school district with the Center for Arts and Technology-Pickering but to reduce funding by $300,000 to $1.2 million per year and avoid outsourcing classes already offered by the district.
In regard to the Phoenixville Public Library, which receives funding from the school district, the Community Budget Advisory Committee recommended that in years when the school budgets are reduced, that the library’s budget is also not increased.
Like last year, the committee also recommended creating a position in the Phoenixville Area School District dedicated only to “competitive grant writing” to try to secure extra funding from the district through those means.
Rental of facilities to the community as a means to produce revenue was also highlighted in one recommendation in the presentation.
Renting out the new Phoenixville Area Middle School’s auditorium for one event per quarter couldgenerate as little as $20,000 in revenue and as much as $40,000. Utilizing other parts of the district such as kitchens and gyms were also recommended.
By the Community Budget Advisory Committee’s numbers, the district could generate between $63,200 and $106,400 in revenue through facility rentals.
Additionally, participating in “earn-back” programs like Giant Food Store or Target’s rewards programs with retailers was also pitched to add to fundraising efforts for the district.
A chart was provided with the presentation highlighting what recommendations could be done “now” or soon, with earn-back programs and increased marketing efforts on that end of the spectrum. Facility rentals wasn’t far off.
Reducing library funding was pushed to the other end, slated as something possible more toward 2014-15.
The committee predicts a district budget shortfall in the next five years of $2.5 to 3 million per year, according to the presentation, due to rising health care costs, pensions, and debt service for “necessary investments in facilities.”
With the recommendations put forth, the committee believes revenue could be raised as much as $671,438 and costs could be cut as much as $2,496,500.
However, both of those numbers are at the extreme highest end of the potential for the recommendations and might be difficult to attain.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.