Kennett School Board approves $84.2 million proposed final budget
● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett School Board unanimously approved a proposed final budget of $84.2 million at its meeting on May 8. Projected expenditures for the 2017-2018 school year declined by about $300,000 in the three months since the board adopted a preliminary budget.
“It's been going down, which is good,” said school board member Michael Finnegan. Finnegan, who serves on the district's finance and budget committee, explained that projected medical and prescription costs are lower than initially expected.
The proposed spending plan will now be available for review by the public. Comments about the budget can be made until Monday, June 12, the day when the board is expected to approve the final budget.
Finnegan said that a tax increase of 2.19 percent will be necessary to balance the budget. That amounts to a $116 increase in the tax bill per the average residential property in the district. The maximum that the district could raise taxes under this year's Act 1 Index limit is 2.9 percent.
The budget for the current school year is $81.7 million. The item having the biggest impact on the budget is once again the school district's state-mandated contribution to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). PSERS costs have been spiraling upward for Pennsylvania school districts for most of the last decade. For 2017-2018, PSERS costs are going up by 9 percent.
During a previous budget presentation, Finnegan explained that the Kennett Consolidated School District has been hindered by the fact that the total assessment of all the properties in the district still is not back to the 2007 values—and consequently the school district's revenues are not increasing year-to-year. Of the 14 school districts in Chester County, Kennett is the only one that has not had an overall increase in total assessment valuations from 2007 to 2017. Kennett's total assessment in 2017 is $2,021,416,348, a decrease of $8,874,716 since 2007. Meanwhile, districts like Downingtown (12.1 percent) and Avon Grove and Twin Valley (both 10.1 percent) have seen significant increases in their total assessment of properties. During the housing crisis, many property owners throughout Chester County had their properties reassessed because of falling home values. The valuations of houses still haven't caught up in Kennett, even though the market is generally healthy. The bottom line for the Kennett Consolidated School District is that revenues aren't growing from year to year as much as other neighboring districts, which makes balancing the budget more of a challenge.
In other business at the May 8 meeting, the school district is contracting with Dell Financial Services for a Dell EMC Unity 400 AFA Hybrid Flash Storage with premium software support for long-term data storage. The school board approved a lease premium of $31,298.06 annually for the five-year agreement.
The school board voted to designate John R. Merrick as the school district's solicitor for the year beginning on July 1, 2017 and ending on June 30, 2018. He will bill the school district at his rate for municipalities, which is $170 per hour.
School board member Michael Finnegan was elected to serve as the treasurer of the school district for another year, beginning on July 1.
In preparation for the 2017-2018 school year, the school board established the breakfast price at $1.50 for all students and a lunch price of $2.75 for elementary students and $3 for middle school and high school students. Mark Tracy, the district's business administrator, said that there is no increase in the prices for next year.
The school board will meet again on Monday, June 12 at 7 p.m. at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center.