By John Chambless

Staff Writer

After a May 5 meeting that drew no public comment or criticism, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board unanimously approved its proposed final budget for 2014-15 at their May 12 work session.

Updated information about tax collection was outlined by Robert Cochran, the district's director of business and operations, before board member Keith Knauss made a motion to approve the budget, and board member Eileen Bushelow seconded the motion.

The budget has total appropriations of $75,981,212 for the upcoming year. The millage rate for Chester County will rise from the current 25.73 mills to 26.44 mills, an increase of 2.76 percent. That will amount to $186.78 for an average home in the district. The new millage rate in Delaware County will rise from 21.71 mills to 22.20 mills, an increase of 2.26 percent. The weighted average between the two counties will be 2.66 percent.

The budget uses $293,000 in exceptions, Cochran noted. 

Knauss told the audience that “We have three more bites of the apple” before the final budget is adopted at the board's June 16 meeting. Board president Victor Dupuis agreed, telling the audience that “we still have an opportunity to change the amounts or the millage” in the course of the board's next three meetings. Such a scenario seems unlikely, since the proposed final budget has not met with any resistance from the public. Final numbers, however, are subject to slight changes as final tax collections and income from fees become clearer in the next month. 

A copy of the complete budget will be available for public viewing on or before May 27 on the district's website (www.ucfsd.org). That will be 20 days before the final adoption. 

At the May 5 budget meeting, Cochran pointed out several factors which influenced the budget for the coming year. Tax revenue collections have fallen below budgeted amounts for the past several years due to a depressed housing market, and interest rates have been at all-time lows. Meanwhile, the amount that the district must pay to the PSERS teacher retirement fund has grown each year. In 2012-13, the 12.36 percent rate was an increase of almost 43 percent over the previous year. In 2013-14, the 16.93 percent rate was an increase of almost 37 percent over the year before. 

Other budget considerations have involved an increase in income from participation fees charged to students, parking fees, and fees for renting the district's facilities. Job positions have been eliminated or realigned to save money, mid-day kindergarten transportation has been eliminated, hourly overtime has been reduced, and there have been wage freezes for adminstrators, teachers and support staff at various times. 

The vast majority of the annual budget, 78.86 percent, is for direct educational delivery and student services, Cochran said, including salaries and benefits. Just over 11 percent goes to buildings and grounds and transportation. Administration accounts for 7.44 percent. This year, there have been no new staff positions added to the budget. 

The June 16 regular board meeting, at which time the budget will be adopted and the levying of real estate taxes will take place, will be held in the Unionville High School Large Group Instruction room. Visit www.ucfsd.org for more information.