As deadline to approve final budget approaches, good financial news for the Kennett Consolidated School District
● By Steven Hoffman
When the Kennett School Board adopts a final budget for the 2019-2020 school year next month, the tax increase will likely be slightly less than what had been expected just a month or two ago.
At the Kennett School Board’s most recent meeting, school board member Michael Finnegan reported that the tax increase is now expected to be about 1.65 percent.
Finnegan, who serves on the school district’s Finance Committee, noted that two months ago, the tax increase was projected to be more than 2 percent for a budget totaling $88.2 million. Spending is projected to increase by about $2 million over the current fiscal year.
Finnegan also noted in his report to the board that a new housing development that is being built within the boundary lines of Greenwood Elementary School could push enrollment at that school to a level that the district wouldn’t be comfortable with. The district always has to keep an eye on enrollment at the elementary school level, to ensure that one building isn’t overcrowded, while another has too much under-utilized space.
Finnegan noted that there have been some discussions about assigning students who reside in a newer housing development in East Marlborough to Bancroft Elementary, which currently has room to accommodate additional students.
School board president Joseph Meola said that district officials are well aware that moving the boundary lines for a particular school is a very sensitive issue for families.
“We take it seriously. We understand the angst that it creates with families when students get moved around,” Meola said. “It’s not an easy topic.”
The school district is taking steps to improve the safety and security of its school buildings. The district is exploring renovations to secure the entryways of the New Garden Elementary School, Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center, the Greenwood Elementary School, Kennett Middle School, and Kennett High School. The upgrades will include modification of doors, walls, and interior windows in the main office areas and entry corridors. The school board approved several contracts, which are related to these security enhancements, totaling nearly $1 million combined.
The school board approved the appointment of John R. Merrick to serve as the district’s solicitor for the fiscal year that runs from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.
Finnegan was also appointed to serve as the treasurer of the school district for the next fiscal year.
The school board approved eliminating the position of maintenance project manager because the director of facilities prefers a hands-on management approach and supervises the projects personally, among other reasons.
During public comment, a Kennett Square resident with children in the schools asked the school district to consider its policies related to out-of-school suspensions.
She made a brief presentation about how studies have shown that such suspensions are not effective, and she also shared her own experiences as a parent. She said that out-of-school suspensions are counterproductive and do the most harm to the most vulnerable students, and studies have supported this viewpoint.
The Kennett Consolidated School District has already reduced its number of suspensions in recent years. Superintendent Dr. Barry Tomasetti said that the school district officials are aware of the issues related to suspensions, especially with regard to the more vulnerable populations of students, and they will continue to take steps to reduce the number of suspensions.
The Kennett School Board will meet again on Monday, June 10.