How Many Elementary Schools Does Pottstown Need? School Board To Vote On Thursday!

If you have followed events over the last year, you know that a crucial vote is coming up this Thursday.  The Pottstown School Board will be voting on which Task Force option to go with.  Mr. Hylton of course favors the five school plan because he mistakenly thinks that people are moving to Pottstown because we have “walkable” elementary schools.  In fact, people don’t move to Pottstown because of the school system.

The Task Force labored for a year to come up with a plan.  Naturally, Mr. Hylton is against their recommendations because Mr. Hylton’s brain contains more intelligence than the sum total of the other 22,376 residents of Pottstown combined.  If you don’t believe me, just ask him.  This vast reservoir of knowledge brought us back-in angle parking on High Street  This bone-headed concept has had a negative impact on our central business district.  If you don’t think so, drive down High Street aka Desolation Boulevard.  Many people refuse to park on High Street because of the back-in parking.  It is very unpopular (much like the purple lights),

I received permission to repost the comment below from the author. The writer explains why Mr. Hylton’s “logic” on keeping five elementary schools is a negative and in the long run far more costly than reducing to three elementary schools, as recommended by the Task Force.  The comment was in response to this SavePottstown!! post.  I urge you to read and carefully consider this information!

Without further adieu I give you Even Keel’s words of wisdom:

Even Keel

It amazes me that some school board members will make this decision based on buildings. Buildings! Not tax savings, not a better educational product, not improved efficiency, but buildings.

IMHO, the two biggest questions to ask and base a decision from are:

1) What are the future costs to the town in tax dollars? What plan saves us the most future tax dollars?

2) What plan provides for the most efficient, effective educational product for the children?

So I’ll take a stab at your question, readytomove, because my belief is that the recommended 3 school, PK – 5 plan accomplishes the best long-term savings.

While the 3 school plan is 33 million, there is a significant PDE reimbursement so that 33 quickly becomes 24. Let’s figure in a more than generous cost overrun, just for arguments sake, and make it 26 mil for total construction costs of the 3 school plan.

The 5 school maintenance plan has been estimated (estimated, because there are still some figures which aren’t known) as a 13-15 million dollar plan. There is no PDE reimbursement with this (and quite possibly a higher cost of financing.) Let’s add in that same cost overrun and put it at 17 mil for the upgrade costs of the 5 school maintenance plan.

That leaves a high estimate of an upfront 9 million dollar difference between the two plans.

Now, let’s look at the savings. With the 3 school plan, the savings in staff reductions is $750,000 in the first year. That cost was generated using this current year’s salary/benefit numbers. This savings would actually increase each consecutive year (compounding) as teacher salaries/benefits costs are always increasing, which we’re all painfully aware of.

Operating and utility cost savings for the 3 school plan would equal $135,000 the first year. (This figure does not take into account the efficiency savings of improved lighting, newer efficient HVAC systems, etc.) Again, this was calculated using this year’s utility and operating costs and as they also go up every year, this savings would increase each consecutive year.

So, in the first year alone the 3 school plan saves $885,000 in staff, operating and utility reductions and that number actually increases in every consecutive future year. But wait, there’s more! The Plan-Con financing for the 3 school plan may yield a much better rate of financing. With current cap rates, it is very feasible it could be as much as 2% or more. There is a small savings to be had there.

All totaled, the per annual savings of the 3 school plan would be very close to a million dollars. It would therefore take approx. less than 9 years to make up the savings of expending the additional 9 million dollars up front, right now for the 3 school plan. (Coincidentally, 9 years from now is when the highest debt burden of the PERS fiasco will be upon us. Seems to me we would want to be saving the most money possibly come that point in time to keep the tax burden lower than it needs to be.)

To be fair, the 5 school maintenance plan does provide savings, but nowhere near to these levels. The utility savings for the geo-thermal payoff alone are longer than 9 years. And I’ll throw it out there – Mr. Hylton loves to say that his plan would keep these buildings open for 20+ more years but not Crabtree Rohrbaugh or any structural engineer has yet to professionally opine that sentiment.

Look at all the improvements you’re getting with the 3 school plan that you aren’t with the other: ADA compliance, multi-purpose rooms to accommodate PE and lunch, Pre-K rooms for a max of 20 students, classrooms for a max of 25 (classroom max is higher with the other plan), decent library, art, music and computer rooms. All of these things for lesser future tax dollars than keeping the current status quo.

Mr. Hylton loves to dangle the fact that Pottstown is the 7th highest taxed district in the State. His plan of “light maintenance” on 5 schools does nothing to help that figure. It is a band-aid for a system that has failed us when what we need is a shift towards a more efficient system. The 3 school plan gives us an opportunity to realize better efficiency in schools that attract people and includes significant future cost reductions.

We may never see taxes go down, but we can make the right choices to slow their impending rise in the future.

A wise Superintendent recently said, “It takes courageous leadership from individuals in the community as well as those in official positions of leadership to focus on the issues that continually keep this community from reaching its potential.”

Truer words were never spoken.

9 comments on “How Many Elementary Schools Does Pottstown Need? School Board To Vote On Thursday!

  1. Thursday night is the most important vote for the future of this town. Because it’s been made 4 times before over the last 14 years, no one is paying attention and apathy reigns supreme.

    For a decision that greatly affects the revitalization of this borough, where are are these so called “partners” who care about Pottstown? Where is PAID? The Hill? MCCC? Borough Council? Planning Commisison? Regional Planning Commission? Why aren’t we hearing any opinion out of them? To throw your hands up and say it’s a school district decision only is the reason we will never see true unity around a cause, a marketing theme or a revitalization plan. We are all supposed to be working together for the same goal but that just never happens here.

    For the fiscal health and systematic change necessary to help this town move forward in the future, a 3 or 4 school plan is a necessity.

  2. Roy, thanks for the wonderful post regarding the upcoming school vote. EK has taken a very confusing and complicated topic and compiled this information into the very best understandable explanation to date. We can only hope and pray now that Dennis Wausnock does the right thing for the people but more importantly the students in the community he grew up in, a true Pottstonian. Julia is moving out of Pottstown soon and will not have to suffer the consequences of maintaining FIVE schools from her wallet. She too should do the right thing for this community and students. We all have no doubt that Hylton, White and Harris will NOT do the right thing for this community or the students (who are certainly not a priority to them) for all the wrong reasons….sheer selfishness and do what your are told to do! The remaining school board directors will do the right thing first for the students and secondly for the taxpayers. Hopefully on Thursday night this school issue will be put to rest with maintaining THREE schools and our community finally moving forward from this fourteen year+ issue. It is not only best for the students to finally have the refurbished updated schools they deserve but for the borough as well.

  3. I, too, hope that Dennis makes the choice to vote for a lesser number of schools.

    To suggest that Julia won’t see the direct impact on her tax bill, if she leaves the area, is accurate BUT there are still people she cares about in town – I think we all know where her mother stands on the issue, need I say more? It is her vote and she needs to use it as a member of the community not a resident of certain geography – if she does that, she will have made a good choice.

    I fervently hope that a choice to downsize is made and a choice to consider it without fear of change or pitting people against each other is the way it is made. It appears, to me, that this issue will never pass with a clear majority, by vote – where is the compromise to achieve a positive solution without arm twisting?

    I recently had a conversation with a former Pottsgrove SB member and I CAN tell you that this person did share a common frustration with me – Mr. Hylton seems to have been the roadblock to ANYTHING in Pottstown getting done (except a cause he champions, himself).

    People surrounding the community have seen these debates, task forces & public meetings drag on for years and it has given the community and SD a particularly bad reputation, in their eyes. We don’t advance or make progess – we just keep doing the same dance over and over. Time for a change, PERIOD!

    Perhaps this is WHY the other partner groups don’t want to be involved in the decision-making process – a decision has NEVER been made AND executed. Now, more than ever, these groups
    MUST speak on Thursday or the chance to make change could be lost for good! I think the SD will be sunk if more efficent operations are not achieved – hello PDE, wanna run the PSD?? It could happen. Operating 5 buildings is not feasible, ANY LONGER!!!!

    Hear that, Dennis?

  4. The common denominator aka problem again is Thomas Hylton. Why do people on the outside looking in see this problem but yet residents are so apathetic or brainwashed that they do not see what everyone else sees!?! Thomas Hylton is a HUGE problem for Pottstown and until the masses wake up from their slumber and take their town back Pottstown will continue to slide down the slippery slope!

    It’s time to grow a set, cut the cord and move forward with no regrets!

  5. the fact is, if they don’t know how they are going to vote, based upon all the information they have gathered during their tenure, to do what is right for the educational future of the children in the community,, not to mention whatever small part the school district can contribute towards revitalization and attracting new families to our community, but hinge it upon their personal feelings and experiences in buildings, and campaign promises……then, I ask, what about responsible government and fiscal responsibility??? That does not fall to us for the here and now!! We must always, continually look forward and ahead…this community has remained stagnant and locked in fear over a very monumental decision because one man has literally spent thousands of thousands of dollars and spent 20 years promoting the 5 school theory….and your taxes have continuously gone up to sustain that because we were so afraid to make any moves….well, now that the 5 NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS TEAM members have served their time on this board, combined with the experience of Mr. Hartman and Mr. Huss, and the knowledge and experience they {HOPEFULLY} have garnered, I would hope that they see the three school option as being the ONLY FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE, EDUCATIONALLY SOUND, and ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE OPTION. If they vote to sustain the five school option, then in my honest opinion, they have failed our community through their lack of courageous leadership. This is our one last chance. FNO.(Failure Is Not an Option) mp ~ Eyes Wide Shut, Unopened

  6. Roy, thanks so much for running EK’s summation of the schools issue. This is the most clear and digestible information out there. Like the first commenter, I agree that all of the “partners” need to step up and support the Task Force recommendations. Their silence on the issue is deafening.

    The entire “walkable schools” farce spans from the sublime to the ridiculous. First of all, there is no way to safely navigate the sidewalks in many neighborhoods even if there were a school within walking distance. I watch parents walking their kids to the bus on the corner and I’ve seen them trip and fall hard on those nasty sidewalks. The kids trip, skin up their knees and cry all the way to the bus. It’s a friggin’ mess. Why? All because of Tom Hylton and his “bassakwards” notions of what’s good for Pottstown and his blatant snobbery toward the out and out hardship his street trees program has created. He’s like a mad scientist that makes a big messy chemical explosion while experimenting and just walks away from the catastrophe like he had nothing to do with it.

    None other than Tom Hylton devised and promoted back-in parking to keep who safe? Cyclists???? Oh Really. What cyclists?? Other than the lost and forlorn souls that cycle through their various psychotropic medications, *on one day – off the next* who the hell else do you ever see “cycling” on High St.? The man is mad and until recently, Pottstown has been a willing co-dependent in a sick relationship with this man who has single handedly brought more sadness, strife and difficulty to this community. It’s like an abusive relationship that has to end somewhere if we are to save our own souls. “Save Three Schools, Save Our Souls”.

    Be done with him now. Stand up for the kids, the taxpayers, the SD and our Borough and let’s take back our responsibility to do what is right.

  7. In this debate there is no reason to mention anything about Tom Hylton’s past or any personality clashes with any members of the school board.

    It’s quite simple really. There are 4 options on the table. A 3 school plan as recomended by the Task Force, a school board initiated compromise 4 school plan, a 5 school maintenance plan or do nothing and make no decision – again.

    The 3 or 4 school plans can SAVE money and provide a much better modern, educational environment for our children. They both provide a shift towards a better way of thinking. Doing nothing will keep up in this stagnant cycle of fear and regret and cost us more money in the future. The 5 school maintenance plan will cripple us with tax increases in the future and doesn’t provide the needed paradigm shift.

    Why can’t we all just keep the people and personalities out of the decision and do what’s best for the community as a whole? A new way of doing business with an included cost savings is the right decision to be made. Period.

  8. Discussing Mr. Hylton is essential to this current situation. Mr. Hylton is the main reason we find ourselves at this juncture again because of his meddling and ability to sway people to his POV. His track record on the Planning Commission goes to show that his “ideas” are not always in the best interest of Pottstown and are flawed. Much like his insistence that we need five elementary schools, the convoluted numbers he presents as facts to justify the need for five elementary schools and the power that he seems to hold over many people in Pottstown. He is leading the charge to keep all of these schools open, that we don’t need and cannot afford, and has inserted himself front and center in the process. People need to see the light, which he has conveniently obscured. Somebody has to open the blinds around here and let the sun in! If he gets his way on this issue, things will get much worse!

  9. As magnanimous as Billy Bob’s comment is, I almost wanted to apologize for my Hylton diatribe but, funny thing was, as soon as my finger hit the big S for “Sorry” I realized – I wasn’t. There is no way to have a conversation about the dirty deeds, past, present or future, without mention of the dirty deed do-er and a reminder that history has a funny way of repeating itself when parts of it are ignored.

    Sorta like cozying up to a rattle snake, for the second time, and being profoundly surprised when bitten – again.

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