U-CF School Board moves $90.3 million budget for June vote
● By J. Chambless
During the May 6 Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board meeting, superintendent John Sanville introduced the 2019-2020 budget as one that fully funds current programs, invests in student wellness, and pays for the first few years of the district’s capital plan.
The $90.3 million budget represents an increase of 3.64 percent over last year. The district will dip into its fund balance, leaving taxpayers with a weighted 2.27 percent school tax increase -- 2.28 percent for Chester County, and 2.23 percent for Delaware County.
Millage rates will be 29.16 and 25.71 (per every $1,000 of assessed value) for Chester and Delaware counties, respectively. For the average assessed district property ($267,564 in Chester County), taxes will increase by $172.56.
According to Director of Business and Operations Bob Cochran, the overall $3 million increase from last year’s budget is largely from growth in salaries and benefits. Due mostly to contract obligations, the overall teacher salary expenditure will increase by just under 3.8 percent this upcoming year. The Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS) contribution is still on the rise, albeit much slower than in past years. It now represents 34 percent of the entire payroll and 50 percent of the benefits cost. Although pension reform (Act 5) passed this year, it only affects employees hired after July 1, 2019. Cochran said that the district PSERS contribution will likely not decrease for the next 20 years. This is due to a large number of current pensioners, plus those who will retire over the next decade.
Special education costs continue to rise, representing $14.3 million of the budget. Board member Gregg Lindner pointed out that state reimbursements have remained basically flat over the past 20 years, even though costs have increased significantly. Sanville explained that the surge is not because of the number of students identified, but rather the increased services needed to educate them. “We have to meet the needs of the kids, whatever needs they bring to us,” he said.
During the May 13 School Board work session, the board unanimously voted to move the budget forward for final approval in June. Board member Bob Sage expressed his approval and summed up many of his colleagues’ views. “It comes in with a tax increase under the Act 1 Index, and as evidenced by the types of things we discussed tonight, we are continuing to invest in all dimensions in the schools -- from the facilities to the curriculum to wellness,” Sage said.
The budget and the May 6 slide presentation are available online on the www.UCFSD.org site (click on “departments,” then “business office”). A print copy is available for public review at the district office. The board will vote on final approval during the June 17 board meeting.
In other news, the board awarded a contract for engineering, design, and bid documents creation for the new grass and double artificial turf field, to K&W Consultants in the amount of $168,980.
During the work session, some board members raised questions in awarding the contract to K&W for two reasons: Vic Dupuis noted that they are the same consultants that recommended these fields as part of the Long Range Facilities Plan last year, and Carolyn Daniels did not like their price tag being higher than the lowest received bid. At the urging of Lindner and Dupuis, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds James Whitesel went back to K&W to renegotiate.
At the May 20 board meeting, Whitesel presented a $6,000 reduction on the bid, which also included more than $13,000 in new extra services versus the low bid. The motion was unanimously approved.