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U-CF School Board gets formal look at proposed budget

04/12/2016 10:35AM ● Published by J. Chambless

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board got a formal first look at the proposed 2016-17 school budget on their meeting on April 11. The administration's director of business and operations, Bob Cochran, presented a thick book containing all the details to each member.

District superintendent John Sanville told the board, “The budget that we're talking about from now until June maintains our current high level of programs and services to our students. It also invests in our students and their future. You'll see initiatives in this budget that are going directly to the classroom and our children. There's funding for an expanded technology initiative to bring Chromebooks to the middle school, and expand the use of our Learning Management System. You'll find staffing adjustments to reduce class sizes and provide additional support, where needed, for our students. Finally, we have invested money for professional development so our staff will be on the forefront of effective techniques in teaching.

“We plan to do this through a tax increase of 2.88 percent,” Sanville continued. “This reflects the use of $284,000 in exceptions, as well as $191,000 from our PSER reserves in order to offset rising PSERs contributions. In short, this is a budget that invests in our children in a very real way, while also appreciating the investment that is made by our community.”

Cochran explained, “This budget contemplates a 2.88 percent weighted average increase in the millage. Specifically, it is a 2.8 percent increase in Chester County and a 3.15 percent increase in Delaware County. This uses $284,000 in exceptions to allow that level of taxing above the Act 1 Index, which is 2.4 percent.

“The budget, on an overall basis, with both revenues and expenditures, has taken out part of the conservative nature we have historically had. We have trimmed areas where individuals have given themselves a of a cushion in their finances. If it's a 'just in case,' we're going to remove that,” Cochran said. “In that vein, we looked at special education. We've done some trimming, but given the volatility of special education, you will see an increase of expenditures of $150,000 as a budgetary reserve, specifically for special education.

“The retirement rate continues to be the single biggest increase, at $1.8 million,” Cochran added. “That's going from 25.84 percent of payroll to over 30 percent. Although we are somewhat out of the woods and the rate of escalation appears to be slowing down in the next year or two, I don't think we are truly out of the woods completely. The PSERs reserve is $2.5 million in an assigned fund balance, and we are using $191,000 of that to balance this budget.

“We will do a formal budget presentation on May 2,” Cochran said. “That is the date of the first budget hearing. If necessary, we will have follow-up hearings on May 3 and 4.”

In other business, Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of buildings and grounds, detailed some expenditures that will be voted on at next week's board meeting, including $33,876 for replacement carpet at Hillendale Elementary School, and $15,476 for carpet replacement at Unionville and Pocopson elementary schools.

Replacement lockers at Patton Middle School are still being evaluated, but Hostetler said the cost should be about $90,000.

PennDOT's work on the Route 926 bridge and intersection near Pocopson Elementary School will include shaving a bit of land off the edge of the school's grounds, Hostetler said.

“The bridge project on Route 926 has been in the works for years,” he said. “As part of that overall construction, PennDOT will improve the intersection at Pocopson Road and Route 926. That results in a need for PennDOT to obtain a right of way from the school district by eminent domain. It's not real large, but they are seeking land that's barely on our property, to construct a turning lane. We don't anticipate any significant impact, but we are meeting with the township to make sure they're on board with everything PennDOT is doing.”

Sanville added, “That section they're taking is for a turn lane so you can make a right hand turn onto Pocopson Road, and that's a benefit to us.”

Hostetler said the land “represents 5/100ths of an acre, and PennDOT is offering us $10,000.”

The Patton Middle School renovations are nearing completion, Hostetler said. “As far as the office renovations, we still have a number of punch list items remaining. They are expected to be completed by the end of April. If not, we will begin assigning values to those items and work towards a credit changeover so we can close out the contract. There is an end in sight,” he said.

Assistant superintendent Ken Batchelor told the board that the district's Curriculum Committee has been discussing Keystone testing. “We discussed a detail that's of large importance to our students, and that is senior exemption from final exams,” he said. “We're looking at putting final exams for seniors back in place starting with the sophomore class, which is the class of 2018. In the next two years, we'll have a break from the Keystones from the state perspective. We still have Keystones in place, we're still following our plan, but we're going to work with the state over next year or so to see what changes the state may make with the Keystone exams.”

For more information, and a video of the board meeting, visit www.ucfsd.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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