New changes likely for Phoenixville community budget committee

Phoenixville Area School District
Phoenixville Area School District

PHOENIXVILLE — Further changes are likely coming for Phoenixville Area School District’s Community Budget Advisory Committee.

Last year, the Phoenixville Area School Board revised the way the committee would operate by including it more into board budget discussions and limiting the number of those appointed.

When the initial changes were being discussed last year, board member Paul Slaninka classified the changes as a “pilot program,” leaving the door open to adjustments.

It appears the board is exploring that open door now.


In the Aug. 14 board workshop meeting, adjustments to prompt more continuity and unique suggestions from the Community Budget Advisory Committee were discussed.

The Community Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC) is made up of non-elected, non-district residents of the district interested in coming up with ways to either lower costs or increase revenues in the district’s budget. It has operated for the last three years.

In years past, the committee operated almost entirely independently of the school board, using numbers and information provided by district administration to come up with budget ideas and initiatives. They met with the school board in a public meeting at an appointed time to present their suggestions en masse.

Late last year, the board approved changes in which the committee was pared down and worked alongside the board in budget meetings, being invited to attend every one.

Some school board members said they felt — and had heard from Community Budget Advisory Committee members — that having the committee sit and take part in each budget meeting may have stifled ideas that might have come about independently.

“I’d like to see the committee go back to what it was,” Slaninka said Aug. 14. “When the administration has the chance to break things down to sub-groups and they report in, I think it was December ... Josh Gould was running the budget at that time and at the end of each issue, he would say, ‘What does CBAC have on that?’”

“They said they were really kind of up in the air about what they were there and what they were supposed to be doing,” said board member Betsy Ruch. “I don’t know if we really got many recommendations this past year. The year before was fantastic.”

Additionally, there was some sentiment that there is a steep learning curve to putting together a school district budget that some rookie members were just beginning to get the hang of at the end of their first year.

A two-year term for each appointment to the committee would be more ideal, according to some.

“One of the CBAC people said, ‘Finally, I’m kind of getting it,’” Ruch said. “Maybe a two-year thing would be better.”

Gould, who thought of making the changes last year, according to Fegley at the time, said he agreed with some of Ruch and Slaninka’s points.

He said he did feel that committee members should attend budget meetings, however, though maybe not necessarily expected to sit and contribute directly with the board each time. Having those committee members familiar with the budget by attending those meetings would be beneficial, according to Gould.

Ken Butera, another board member, suggested potentially giving the committee an idea of the areas where the board was looking for suggestions, sort of like assignments.

The committee used to operate by using two sub-committees — one dedicated to expenses, the other two costs — but it seems unlikely that the two-pronged organization will be brought back.

Last year’s change limited the committee to nine people, as opposed to the 15 it operated with in years past. It’s not clear if that will change, but Slaninka said he liked the idea of having more people, five from each of the school district’s municipalities, as the committee operated in the past.

Any changes would likely come through the school board’s policy committee, which Slaninka chairs.

The district will soon advertise for new members to the Community Budget Advisory Committee.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno