By Steven Hoffman
Two major projects broke ground over the summer so Kennett Consolidated School District (KCSD) officials are analyzing the potential impact that these residential developments could have on the schools.
Board member Michael Finnegan, the chairman of the district’s Finance Committee, explained that the groundbreaking of Magnolia Place in Kennett Square Borough and Granite Ridge in Kennett Township prompted the district to conduct an analysis of how the projects will impact future enrollment by looking at the impact that similar projects have had in the past.
The plans for the Granite Ridge development include 112 income-restricted one- to three-bedroom apartments and Mark Tracy, the assistant to the superintendent for business administration, said that based on a similar development in New Garden Township, the longterm impact could be 55 or 60 additional students in the district. That's based on a student-per-occupancy ratio of .4-to-1, which is similar to the New Garden development.
The Magnolia Place property was previously undesignated in the district’s attendance maps for elementary schools. It was assigned to Bancroft Elementary. The Granite Ridge property is within the boundaries of Greenwood Elementary. There is a potential for overcrowding at Greenwood Elementary.
“Greenwood has the highest enrollment-to-capacity level,” Tracy explained, adding that the district wants to make sure that students are evenly distributed among the elementary schools based on their capacities.
Tracy said that the district has sufficient capacity among the elementary schools to accommodate enrollment growth.
“Overall, we are in excellent shape,” he said.
But the district may decide to adjust the boundaries for each school slightly as enrollment patterns shift.
“We are in the initial stages of evaluating small modifications to the attendance maps to alleviate this potential problem,” explained Finnegan.
Finnegan also reported that in its first meeting of the new school year, the Finance Committee reviewed revenues and expenditures for the 2012-13 school year that concluded on June 30.
“Overall, we had a good year,” Finnegan said. He explained that the district was able to achieve significant savings through the self-insured health care program.
“With lower than usual medical, dental, and prescription claims last year, we were able to initiate an Internal Service Fund and seed it with $850,000,” he said. “This new fund will act as a stabilization fund to eliminate fluctuating claims risk in future years.”
The board will receive quarterly financial statements on the Internal Service Fund beginning this month.
The district was also able to transfer $1.3 million to the Capital Reserve Fund for future maintenance projects, and increased the General Operating Fund reserves by $666,000.
These positives were countered somewhat by some negative budget news, too. KCSD is still seeing a significant number of tax assessment appeals. If these appeals are approved by the county, the revenue to the school district from property taxes decreases.
“While the residential appeals are starting to slow down,” Finnegan said, “there are two large commercial properties in Kennett Township appealing. As it stands now, these two properties alone could cost us over $80,000 a year in additional lost revenues.”
Finnegan also explained that Tracy informed the Finance Committee that the district’s Act 1 Index for the 2014-15 school year will be set at $2.1 percent, which is slightly higher than last year. This is the maximum allowable tax increase that the district will be able to enact to balance next year’s budget without obtaining approval from voters via a referendum. The district could be eligible for exceptions that have been established by the state that would allow for a slightly higher increase than the Act 1 index.
Also at the Oct. 14 meeting, superintendent Dr. Barry Tomasetti handed out awards from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to longtime board members for their service. Both Heather Schaen and Dr. George Drake have reached eight years of service. Schaen is seeking a third term on the board in the Nov. 5 general election, while Drake has decided not to run for a third term.