Categories
News

Letters To The Editor

To the Editor,
Well as you and the taxpayers in the Borough of Tyrone know by now the 2003 budget worksheets have turned into a proposed budget. That budget was made available for review at the Borough Building at no charge or copying for 25 cents a page. Needless to say Jim Ray and I along with several other folks paid the Borough, got a copy of the proposed budget, and spent our evenings reviewing and calculating the figures provided in the budget document to confirm information provided by the Borough Manager at the November Council meeting.
So here we go with the short version of this approximately 60-page budget document touching on some concerning figures:
• Total wages for 34 full and part-time employees covering all departments: $1,355,500.00
• Total health benefit’s paid for 34 employees all departments: $345,000.00
• This figure also includes health benefits for 4 retired police officers
• Other benefits, life insurance, longevity, FICA, Pensions, etc.: $245,000.00
• The grand total for 34 employees levels off at: $1,945,500.00
This year, according to published reports, the projected increase in health care insurance alone was estimated to be considerably higher across the board. The Tyrone Borough Proposed Budget projects an increase in payments for employee health care insurance alone to be approximately 27.7% or in real dollar figures $77,500.00. Keep in mind this 2003 increase is in addition to the 16% increase in 2002.
The Borough not only pays all (100%) of these health insurance costs for all employees but, they will continue to pay all (100%) of these costs for the next 5 years because our elected official’s have approved a contract with the union that calls for the Borough to pick up all (100%) of the insurance tab no matter how much the health insurance costs go up!!
To the best of my knowledge, the Borough didn’t shop around for lower health insurance options. One would think that with this kind of expense they would at least be looking for the best bang for our buck.
Another interesting page in the budget is the 2003-General Fund. Cash and investments as of January 1, 2003, are listed at $1,368,000.00. Total revenue for 2003 is projected at $1,510,000.00, together the total cash and revenue is $2,878,000.00. Now on the other side of this very thin coin the total expenses projected for 2003 is listed at $2,872,000.00. And with a little subtraction [trained by TAHS math teacher Carl (Zeek) LaPort], cash and investments remaining as of December 31, 2003 will be a whopping $6,000.00. If Zeek was standing in front of the blackboard in this math class, I find myself to wondering who would be getting hit on the top of the head with his eraser.
Keep in mind this is all without the Police budget, they are still in negotiation. When the police union and the Borough finally come to an agreement, this added cost would be in addition to the expenditures above – there always has to be a fall guy. I think we all remember Councilwoman Sarah Jane Miller speaking out at every meeting against this excessive spending and her adamant opposition to approving any union contract that would undoubtedly tie Council’s hands when dealing with any funding or employee matters. It appears no one paid any attention to Mrs. Miller.
I wonder what Mrs. Miller’s position would be on the issue regarding Snyder Township’s question about the Tyrone Fire Agreement? Even I have to wonder about this Borough needing $4,981.00 out of the $19,925.00 requested increase to cover “Administrative Costs”? I really don’t believe that Snyder would be questioning an increase in fire protection costs if the money were going where it should, to the fire departments and not into the Borough’s pockets. This is a mirror image of this Boroughs approach to your “Public Safety/Protection”. And, what about that excuse made by a Borough Official that the rate for Snyder Township fire protection hadn’t changed since 1996? Now all of a sudden the Borough wants to collect for all those years and raise it up 30%, at a rate of 5% for each?
If you have reviewed the proposed budget, you know the Borough is giving away 4% pay raises, paying 100% of all health care costs along with other associated benefit costs, and spending large amounts of money for “Capital Improvements”. When it comes to public safety like Police and, this time fire protection, the Tyrone Borough Council “could,” decide not to provide that protection to our neighboring township, now what’s that all about?
WOW, it might just be time to reevaluate our public safety priorities. We’re talking human life and property verses pocket change!!
Take a minute and look at what has been going on in Snyder Township, the residents have been attending the Township meetings, they have spoken out loud and clear on their budget concerns along with several other issues and, “they have been heard” by their Elected Officials. Is anyone listening down at the Tyrone Borough Building???

William Fink
Tyrone
— — —
Dear Editor,
I recently purchased a copy of Tyrone’s proposed budget. I am beginning to see why it takes a borough manager and director of administration to come up with this. They have wage and payroll spread throughout the three seperate “funds” as they like to call them. Water Fund, Sewer Fund, and the “General Fund”. Directors (Department Heads as they are called) are listed totally seperate from hourly employees. So, you have to go here and go there to get the totals. It certainly is not the simplest way to show wages and benefits! Wages are wages and benefits are benefits. List them side by side so the people can see where their gold is going!
Everyone should get their due, so here goes. Kudos to the Mayor and Borough Manager for holding the capitol expense spending in 2002, it certainly was the prudent thing to do with the closing of the Mill. Now the Borough is starting the year with a very commendable buffer of $1,368,000. They managed to save this amount and still purchase two new police cars which I think is wonderful. Now, they want to spend $2,872,000 in 2003, leaving us with a balance of $6,000 to start 2004. Not real smart of them considering the police have not settled their contract yet.
The next statement is purely my own opinion (which is what this forum is about). I think the Mayor, for whatever reason, is willing to risk the safety of this community. Always ready to cut police spending whenever and wherever she can. I simply don’t understand how they plan to spend $1,363,000 on capitol expenses i.e. pool liner, trucks, etc. yet she will fight tooth and nail to keep the police force to one full-time officer, chief (not included). I feel the Mayor and for whatever reason Al Drayovich, who prepared the budget, are spending the reserve down so they can throw their hands up in the air next year (maybe even this year) and say we have to raise taxes.
I urge everyone who lives in the Borough, come to the next meeting! See how they are going to spend your “gold”. I will have them explain to me on record what longevity is. Who gets it, who tracks it and how giving $29,400 of taxpayer money over to employees of the borough, who already get 100 percent paid hospitalization and almost every holiday paid is justified.
Let me leave you with just a couple numbers. We have 34 full-time employees and all part-time employees (park and pool attendants, etc.) with a total payroll of $1,355,500 plus $590,000 in benefits (hospitalization, pension plans, etc.) for a total of $1,945,500. The total operating revenue of the borough is $1,510,000. So, we have to depend on water and sewer customers paying their bills to meet payroll let alone do any capitol expensing.
I think the council can go a long way toward improving the bottom line of this budget. Spending it down to $6,000 is just unconscionable. They should be able to leave $500,000 to $600,000 and not really feel that much of a pinch. They will still be spending approximately $700,000 more than they spent last year.
Hope the numbers didn’t bore you too much, but, it’s our money and our future that they are spending. Please come and see what our future holds.
Thank you,
James Ray
Tyrone

Categories
News

Letters To The Editor

Dear Sir,
After witnessing the production of “Sherwood,” at the Tyrone Area High School last Saturday, I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised.
The casting, scenery, accompaniment, stage hands, wardrobe, electricians and above all the direction was exceptional. I am very sure that Will Jones should feel very proud that his work was put to good use.
Working with such a large cast was a real challenge.
Keep up your good work TCP.
Sincerely,
Morris Levine

— — —
I have always felt we should never stop learning. There is always so much to absorb and dissect —to change or accept, and often, to question. At last Tuesday’s Tyrone School Board meeting, we, The Snyder Township and Vicinity Citizens learned so much. We learned our school superintendent who is usually a jolly good fellow with smiles and handshakes all around, can be very snappy and snarly when confronted with controversial issue he does not choose to discuss nor permit the Tyrone School Board to discuss. At this September’s board meeting, the superintendent (a school district employee) told us Snyder Township tax payers that we could not ask questions of any school board member (our governing body)! He later amended his order to permit the board to answer written and signed questions. We complied with that directive. We then learned even more. The school board secretary, sent us a letter a week after she gave the letter to The Daily Herald which did not answer most of our questions. Why will they not answer? What is there to hide?
At the next board meeting, we again handed in our questions to the governing body. Again we received our answers, or lack of answers from the superintendent (a school employee). Why? The questions we asked were not so hard to answer. We wanted facts, not the stonewalling we got. “Why can’t the board speak for itself and answer? The school board is held accountable for any decisions they make, whether they’re made to please the superintendent or for the good of the community.
Tuesday’s meeting was “putting the cart before the horse”. The public meeting with Pyramid representatives should have been held seven months before the contract with the school district was surreptitiously signed in August. There was plenty of time to do this. We are denied information about how much involvement the school board had in this matter before they yessed it. Two members of our concerned citizens group searched the boards own minutes for the previous year and found no mention of Pyramid at all. If there was discussion with board members, shouldn’t something that would have such a tremendous impact on the surrounding community be recorded? Before approving this agreement, board members should have checked on Pyramid’s financial records, existing schools and their success rate, the sire being used and the impact on this quiet residential village of elderly taxpayers. Also they should have checked complaints from residents near the homes Pyramid now operates. How many times have police been called to those homes?
Pyramid admits it is a for profit business, but deals mostly with alcohol and drug dependency. They are now expanding to the lucrative business of adolescent group homes. Right now, the few students at Greentree from Tyrone return to their homes at night. What happens when 30-50 boys 12 to 18 years old, with big problems live there permanently? Pyramid admits, the boys will come from anywhere they can get them. When asked who is responsible for these boys if they walk away from the home both Pyramid and our superintendent say they can’t be responsible if the boys leave. Who is responsible? In a recent article in The Altoona Mirror, the state department which oversees these homes, said they have difficulty keeping track of physical and sexual abuse by staff and residents in group homes. They rely on home operators to report such incidents. Can you imagine a “for profit” business reporting anything detrimental? Most complaints and information about such places come from parents or the residents. One mother reported she placed her daughter in a “safe group home” hoping it would help the girl. She was horrified to find out her daughter was raped at that supposedly safe home. Did our superintendent and board members read this report? Ask them.
Pyramid gives a glowing account of the success rate they have in building the self esteem of these students from Tyrone. Now we ask you, if you were pot out of your own school because you were considered a problem, how much self esteem would you have? We asked the board why, since Pyramid claims they are teaching these students so well, those teachers can’t teach them here in their own schools.
We have so many truly dedicated, hard working teachers here who deserve consideration also. At September’s board meeting, we suggested to the school board that with the declining enrollment, they could eliminate one-third of their administrative staff and use the money to hire more teachers and avoid pupil overload so teachers could give more time to each student. No need to say, this suggestion was also firmly ignored. The large crowd attending Tuesday’s meeting was disturbed that Pyramid’s slides and presentation (which should have been presented before August) took up most of the hour allotted to the taxpayers. We have heard their PR a number of times already.
Then we were told the subject of Pyramid is closed — period.
It may be to Dr. Miller and the board, but not to the community who will hold this administration and board to accountability. The Concerned Citizens of Snyder Township and Vicinity will continue to attend all board meetings and keep our own minutes of the proceedings for the record.
So many questions, so few answers! But life goes on and we are still learning. We learned about our superintendent and school board have not learned what democracy is about! We learned we could sue the board if we didn’t like what we did. An interesting proposal, but how sad, unneighborly, and unchristian.
Helen Mengel
Snyder Township
— — —

Editor’s Note: This letter was written to Tyrone School Board President Lee Stover and a copy was provided to The Daily Herald by the writer.
Dear Mr. Stover,
Thank you for responding to my inquiries concerning the contract with Pyramid. However, some of my original questions were not answered and I now have some additional ones as follows:
Contract compliance
Your response to my contract compliance issue that the district solicitor reviewed and approved the contract on August 12, 2002 does not address contract compliance but rather that the contract includes appropriate language supporting both parties objectives and it can be legally enforced. As we all know, Pyramid was in violation of the current contract on August 26, 2002 per paragraph number 3- “assurance of conformance with educational standards”. Eleven violations were identified by the Department of Labor and Industry inspection which was done based on the concern of our local citizens.
What is the position of the school district or plan to assure that all aspects of the contract is in compliance? Who is responsible for contract compliance? Has the school district notified Pyramid of the contract violation? Have you requested a corrective action plan with a specific timetable for compliance? I know that Labor and Industry has given them until January 6, 2003 to comply with the 11 violations but what has the school administration taken? Are there other contract issues?
The time to assure compliance in a contract is at the beginning. Both parties are interested in establishing a positive, trusting, results oriented relationship. I believe this interest exists but I see no action by either party to assure compliance. Anything left unattended naturally deteriorates. It is management’s challenge to stop this natural process. In my opinion, if we can’t start in compliance, it will only deteriorate over time with inattention.
It raises the compliance question of all contracts signed by the Tyrone School District. This is a critical issue and I would appreciate your action and response. Does the school district have a code or procedure covering contract administration.
In your response to me you wonder my concern for the elderly that resided there if the buildings were not in compliance. My position is the same, the facility should meet all codes or standards in both cases. I believe strongly that how the owners/managers address these type issues is one indication of their real intentions. Secondly, this just serves as an example of the natural deterioration that occurs over time. Obviously, we need more than state and local enforcement to assure compliance. Contract administration is a critical function of a contracting agent like the Tyrone School District.
Cost control
Your response to the cost/fees for Pyramid’s services question, indicate that it is addressed on page three of the contract. The copy of the contract that I received from Cathy peachy does not have the $24.90 for regular education and $76.00 for special education that you included in your letter to me dated September 27, 2002. Is there an addendum to the contract or a different page three than that which I received? What are the costs for the therapeutic and residential care which are also part of the contract? Are the per diem costs included as part of the contract? Under what circumstances can they raise these rates? Are they fixed for the life of the contract?
I appreciate your response to my request for quotation inquiry and the reference to Section 807.1 of the Pennsylvania School Code indicating the services are not required to be bid or quoted. However, I would hope that we as a school district would be striving for “Best Practices” versus meeting minimum code requirements. I can assure you that only public or government organizations have this type of language in their purchasing/contracting procedures. Single sourcing of cost plus contracts result in higher costs. I know there are other suppliers of the services requested and competitive bidding is a best practice.
The calculated cost savings provided for the six students of $60,074.59, I understand based on average cost of $50.45 per day. But, if you look at the total cost to the district now for 18 students at 50.45 per day for 180 days, it is $163,278 versus $113,560.59 for six students last year. We are already spending $50,000 more this year than last. Where is this extra money coming from? Should we not be asking ourselves how or why we have gone from six students in 2001 to 18 students in 2002? A 300 percent increase? What has happened? I can’t believe that the incoming class has changed that drastically. Have the criteria for identifying these students changed? I would appreciate your input.
Sunshine act
Based on your response in your October 8, 2002 letter to me, the board minutes that I received, particularly the August 13, 2002 session did not comply with your response: “(3.) a description of the substance of official actions taken and a record of how each school director voted; and (4.) the names of citizens who spoke ad the subject of their comments.” My copy of the minutes did not indicate how each school director voted nor mentioned any citizens that spoke. I have interpreted your response that you believe that they comply with this act. Am I missing something or did I not get a copy of the correct meeting minutes?
There is no intention to question Ms. Emenhiser’s credibility, we just wanted to see how each board member voted by getting a copy of the meeting minutes. This information was not in the minutes received and other than your letter response on how she voted, we still do not know how each member voted. However, I would question Ms. Emenhiser’s ability to participate objectively in any discussion or action involving Pyramid being a Pyramid employee.
Performance measurements/results
The staff to client ratio that Ms. Emenhiser mentioned of 14 staff to 15 clients sounds good and has been used quite often by Pyramid management as an indication of the quality of care provided. I prefer to look at quantitative data, results and trends. With 14 staff at Greentree for 15 clients, how can boys run away regularly without them knowing they are missing? The boys have run through our property several times, we call and inform Pyramid, they thank us, they tell us they will advise their counselor. With a one on one ratio as you and Pyramid describe, how can this happen? You see, results are the only thing that I am looking for. How do you think the elderly residents living nearby feel about their property and security? Do you think they are looking forward to up to 40 boys being residents with three counselors overnight with what is happening with only daytime students?
You indicated that the students are receiving competent services and are exhibiting significant progress. How do you measure progress? What are the performance measurements/goals established for students at Pyramid? What statistics do you have or does Pyramid have showing the results of their treatment/care? How many or what is the trend of students getting back on track? Able to function in a “normal environment”? I agree that these students need help, my question is “What are we getting or what do we expect from this investment?” There are reports due from Pyramid, I am requesting a copy of these reports to the school district.
I apologize for the length of this letter but I am very interested and concerned about the four areas identified: Competent compliance, cost control, availability of information, and performance measurements. I believe we have the same objectives of doing the best for the students of the Tyrone School District. I want to make sure that our actions support the objective. Thanks for reading and listening, I look forward to your response.
Sincerely,
Ed Schenck