Monday, April 24, 2017

What started out to be a post about the budget...

It all started with this article in the Post Gazette, Nice surprise: No tax increase in Mt. Lebanon after all. Thanks to some refinancing of bonds, and trouble in the world, taxpayers in Mt. Lebanon will not see a tax increase.
That’s because the district was the unexpected benefactor of a fortuitous dip in interest rates due to recent world events, such as the conflict in Afghanistan, tensions in North Korea and an upcoming election in France, according to the district’s financial adviser.
The article continues with
The board is expected to approve the final budget May 22. Until then, it will be available for public inspection online at (Go to for the budget.)
And that is when my research took an ugly turn. Looking at the budget, I don't see anything about the Capital Campaign originally suggested by Pursuant Ketchum in 2013.

We are now in Year Four of the "Quiet Phase." The longest quiet phase E V E R 
District spokeswoman Cissy Bowman [What the hell does that woman actually do???] said the campaign remains in its “quiet phase,” with organizers planning “awareness events” for potential donors during the summer and into the next school year. 
That was two years ago. Still nothing. Nothing is in the budget. No totals are mentioned ANYWHERE. We have been given crumbs, like the current brochure and the webpage showing the Campaign Cabinet. OMG!   Look who is on the committee? Two members of the Timmy Ticket! Hey Ladies, how about coming clean with some amounts in the Capital Campaign, now known as the Century of Excellence Campaign? How about a spreadsheet showing what your expenses are and what you have taken in? This is starting to sound like Mary Birks being executive director of Outreach!

How about you, Jan Klein? What can you tell us about the Capital Campaign? Exactly how many more years will we be in the Quiet Phase? I guess Mark Cuban is finding better ways to invest his money on Shark Tank.

Yet, Lebo Larry is more offended by Dan Remely's comment. (See PG article above.) I never run out of things to blog about here. The Timmy ticket has really made a mess of things in Mt. Lebanon.


Anonymous said...

Read that first paragraph in the PG article very closely.

"There will likely be no property tax increase next year in the Mt. Lebanon School District, despite previous fears of a sizable hike. And, it’s all due to changes in the global landscape over the last two weeks."

"There will likely be no property tax increase..."??????

Why "likely?" Does that mean that once the Timmy Team gets reelected there could be another surprise?

Anonymous said...

The original Capital Campaign as presented by several board directors up for re-election was expected to raise $15 million.
After the Pursuant Ketchum feasibility study the fund raiser goals were revised down to $5 million over 6 years.

Some estimate that expenses for the campaign are approaching $1 million with no accounting of how much has come in. Why? It should be very simple to post income vs expenses.

E. T. Gillen said...

2:52 PM, the goal was revised to $6 million, with $3 million going to endowment and $3 million going in capital.
Not $30 million...not $15 million...
And that was from almost FIVE years ago.

Anonymous said...

2:52, if there is no accounting of how much money is coming in then this poses a very dangerous situation. Remember what happened to the German Club funds and a specific German language teacher?

By filing a right to know, can this information be given to us or is this one of those non-school district accounts?

Nick M.

E. T. Gillen said...

We should be able to get this information through a RTK, but why do we have to do that in the first place? We also need to have an accounting of money going out too!

Anonymous said...

Since there will not be a tax increase, will the Superintendent be awarded a monetary reward for avoiding a tax increase? Of course, this neutrality on taxes is a result of the bond issue refinancing. It has nothing to do with the Superintendent's effort, or lack thereof. But then again, the board yielded to the teachers and installed air conditioning in the schools, saddled the community with an unnecessary high school construction program, and set in motion a new cottage industry, the "slumbering" capital campaign. In view of these outcomes, the Superintendent needs a reward to affirm these ill conceived outcomes. What should have occurred is a reduction in the millage, if the Superintendent was qualified to oversee the district.

Anonymous said...

7:41 exactly!
Isn't it funny that when the district operations come under scrutiny the need for a tax hike simply vanishes through some crafty money moving.
If sound financial policies were being pursued in the first place the tax hike would never had been needed in the first place. That management prudence should have started with not giving out 6% raises and bonuses in a stagnant economy barely achieving 1% growth.

All the spending wasn't "for the children."

Anonymous said...

The campaign was presented at the public meeting in November. Check the slides from the replay

"Where are we Now?"

Capital $485,413 (cash in)
Endowment $29,035 (cash in)

High School
Fall 2015 $100,000 ($50,000 for fine arts from donor; $50,000 for Technology)
Fall 2016 $50,000 to Elementary Technology

Not really raking it in, huh? I would be the salary for the administrator working on this for several years exceeds what was given and this is a disaster.

Anonymous said...

11:51, don't quote me on this but I believe they attributed the $100,000 or so donated to the new weight training room to the Capital Campaign efforts as well.

Still, we paid Ketchum $40,000+ expenses, DeLuca's salary and benefits for two years ($100,000/yr) and the newest director bills up to - what is it $1,500/month.

Doesn't look like the net gain comes even close to $5 or $6 million.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where this hair-brained scheme originated?
With the administration, the board, PTA, financial office, teachers union?

Anonymous said...

The Timmy Ticket loves the Campaign! They supported Jo Posti's efforts all along.

Jo Posti wants to help ensure students continue to receive a quality education. Following two terms on the Mt. Lebanon School Board, she is serving the district again as co-chairwoman of its Century of Excellence capital campaign.

Elsewhere, the board heard a presentation from Allison Lewis Lodhi, a consultant with Pursuant Ketchum, with which the district has contracted to manage its $6 million capital campaign. She explained the team is in the process of setting up information systems and establishing a volunteer structure for managing more than 37,000 prospect records. The organizational phase of the campaign should last about nine months.

The campaign is also advertising for a director and has received several resumes, Lewi Lodhi said. A volunteer interest form will be available to the public on the district’s website by the end of the week.

“I’ve already seen how committed the community is to education,” she concluded. “These are the makings of a strong campaign.”

Anonymous said...

Campaign Cabinet

*Josephine Posti
Campaign Co-Chair

Dale Cable
Dione Cahillane
*Elaine Cappucci
*Katie Caste
Beth Evans
Larry Lebowitz
Robert Mallery
Preston McMurry, Jr.
Lisa Sullivan

E. T. Gillen said...

Yep, I had a link to the cabinet. Caste and Cappucci. Why would anyone want to vote for them? The capital campaign was a failure from the beginning, something we pointed out here on Lebo Citizens over and over.

Anonymous said...

Finding her son a good job at Mount Lebo was the only thing Elaine did well. School Construction was a debacle.

Anonymous said...

Has Carol Walton dropped off as a Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign?

Anonymous said...

Cissy Bowman takes iPhone photos for social media. It's crucial to the education for each and every student.

Anonymous said...

Carol Walton, who fired superintendent Sable at enormous cost to the District and was sent packing by the voters, may or may not be on the Capital Campaign Committee. She is, however, on the Cappucci/Birks Campaign Committee! Her name appears on their stationary.

Anonymous said...

3:44, according to the August 2015 Almanac article linked at 2:58 pm, Walton was co-chair at that time.

It was also written that —

Recognizing that traditional funding sources are drying up as the cost of public education soars, district officials in 2012 instituted a fundraising effort to try to mitigate the disparity, with a target of bringing in $6 million.

“Obviously, we want to reach the financial goal set for the campaign,” Posti said. “But one of the important outcomes of the campaign is getting people to understand how public schools are funded and to understand the challenges every school district is facing right now in order to maintain the quality of programs and the things they think are important to a child’s education.”

So far, Mt. Lebanon’s capital campaign has raised about $1.1 million in pledges, gifts, goods and services, according to Maggie Schmidt, the district’s campaign counsel and veteran of dozens of such efforts on behalf of nonprofit organizations.

Schmidt gave a recent update to the school board, during which she cited as positives a strong corps of volunteers on the campaign’s behalf and a general opinion that the effort is “good for the community.”

She provided some recommendations for moving the effort forward, most notably hiring a new full-time campaign director, a job that since has been posted. Alyssa DeLuca, the previous director, resigned in May, and Schmidt is serving the district temporarily on a contract basis.

Another recommendation is to make the campaign more visible in the community, especially with regard to its purpose.

“That’s always a crucial element in any capital campaign,” Schmidt said.

Becoming more visible is a crucial element in any Capital Campaign! This has to be the most invisible visible campaign I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Interesting item from 4:55 comment...
people need to understand how public schools are funded!

You mean writing checks to cover property taxes isn't enough???

Maybe school districts need to understand where taxpayers get the money to pay for public schools.

Richard Gideon said...

There is a basic error in April 25, 2017 at 6:05 PM's premise that writing checks to cover property taxes should be information enough for people to understand how public schools are funded. The error is this: the majority of so-called "property owners" pay their taxes through monthly payments made to their mortgage companies. Because the tax payment is spread out over 12 months the "funding lesson" is less obvious (and painful!) than it is for someone who has no mortgage. Sure, mortgagors get a yearly mortgage statement showing the amount of real estate taxes paid, but I suspect the average mortgagor pays little attention to it. People who rent in Mt. Lebanon pay property taxes too, but they are even more insulated from the "funding lesson" because the percentage of their rent payment devoted to taxes isn't delineated.

As an aside, I maintain that there are no actual property owners in Mt. Lebanon - or anywhere else for that matter. If you are paying a mortgage you don't really own your property until you've paid the principal and interest. Even then you cannot do with your property as you see fit. And since the Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London even your right to keep a house and the land it is on is not guaranteed. A town may use eminent domain to take your property and give it to someone else, if in doing so the local government or school district will reap increased tax revenue. Don't believe it? -- ask the people in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Charlestown, Indiana!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Cappucci both Corrupt Elaine and Teacher son can donate to the capital campaign. They seem to be getting great gifts from the district, this way when teacher Cappucci has children he can "gift" a position or to to his children .Make nepotism a family tradition.

People only donate to good causes. Causes they believe in. I don't believe in this school district as it is..Timmy and company (Cappucci, Birks, Remely, and Caste ) will make this impossible for anyone to want to donate to nepotism filled, and corrupt system.