● Published by J. Chambless
By a vote of five to four, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board approved a proposed final budget on Monday night.
The board considered three scenarios for funding the 2015-16 budget, and after lengthy debate, arrived at a modified version of one of them. In the end, the choice was a 2.01 weighted average millage increase, or about $126 more per year for an average homeowner in Chester County.
The average Chester County taxpayer currently has an average taxable assessed value of about $260,000 and pays about $7,950 in school taxes. In Delaware County, the average taxpayer will pay an additional $163.50 (a 2.8 percent increase).
The proposed millage rate will be 26.92 in Chester County (a 1.82 percent increase), and 22.83 mills in Delaware County (a 2.84 percent increase). The final adoption of budget and the levying of real estate taxes will take place at the board's meeting on June 15. There is still room for the numbers to change in the next month. The spending plan in the district totals $79,294,443.
Robert Cochran, the district's director of business and operations, presented a list of “what's new” in the proposed final budget. The board had requested the list at last week's meeting. The list includes technology upgrades for Unionville High School and Patton Middle School, an expansion of the pilot program that increases student access to Chromebooks ($159,580), earmarked funding for the wellness committee ($70,000), new bus purchases ($300,628), renovations at Hillendale Elementary and Patton Middle School, and a large proposed expenditure for special education ($250,000 to $300,000). The number of entry level students with special needs has more than doubled since 2014-15, and now accounts for about 10 percent of the school budget, Cochran said.
At the end of the presentation, board member Robert Sage proposed adding a line item for $50,000 to reward top teachers in the district and help attract the strongest candidates. The board was generally favorable to the idea, but during public comment at the end of the meeting, several teachers told the board that they felt the expenditure was unnecessary and would do nothing but alienate teachers who did not receive the awards.
Sage apologized and said, “If this is not of interest to you, we should put the $50,000 back in the taxpayers' pocket.”
Sage's proposal will be weighed and voted on at next month's board meeting as part of their decision on the final budget. A copy of the proposed final budget will be posted online on May 26 for public inspection. The board will vote on the final budget on June 15 at their regular meeting in the District Office.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.