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Chester County Press

U-CF School Board appoints new members and approves proposed preliminary budget

12/08/2015 10:25AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board appointed its new members on Dec. 7 and quickly got down to the business of approving the proposed preliminary budget for the 2016-17 school year.

The board now includes Elise Anderson, Carolyn Daniels, Victor Dupuis, Jeff Hellrung, Gregg Lindner, John Murphy, Michael Rock, Robert Sage and Steve Simonson. At the organization meeting, Dupuis was unanimously re-elected as board president. The voting for vice-president came down to seven votes for Hellrung and two votes for Simonson, so Hellrung will be serving as vice-president under Dupuis.

The brief meeting that followed included approving the purchase of a replacement truck in the amount of $40,612.55, and the approval of bids for liquid fuel for the coming school year.

The main agenda item was approving the proposed preliminary budget, which at this point totals $83,679,685 in total appropriations. Adoption of the preliminary budget is expected on Jan. 25, and adoption of the final budget and the levying of real estate taxes is expected on June 20.

Robert Cochran, the district's director of business and operations, outlined the budget process for the new members of the board.

“This budget calls for $855,000 worth of exceptions,” Cochran explained, with a 5.6 percent increase in Chester County millage, and a 5.9 percent increase in Delaware County. The weighted average is a 5.66 millage increase.

“That is over the Act One Index by $2,120,000 of expenditures that will need to be cut,” Cochran continued. “It is over the Act One plus exceptions limit by $1,170,000. So we will be looking at that in the ensuing months within the administration to bring this budget down to where it needs to be. We would look to do that by a combination of cuts, and use of fund balance, which would produce an operating deficit budget, but not necessarily result in an operating deficit, based on our operations in the past several years. Or there could be a combination of both, which is the reality of where we will be. The real hard budget work takes place not at this preliminary phase, but it in the March time frame. We will be having discussions of what initiatives, or what staffing changes, will be made or maintained.

“As for the state budget, they're still haggling with 2015-16,” Cochran said. “We have not gotten any funds from the state. Fortunately, that has not adversely impacted the district at this time. There are school districts that are struggling because of the lack of state cash flowing to them. The fact that 85 percent of our budget is funded locally is beneficial to us. It means that the lion's share is managed by our taxpayers, but it also means that we are not at the mercy of the state at this time.”

District superintendent John Sanville said, “What this budget does is leave all doors open to us, except referendum. We're taking referendum off the table. Everything else is still open for the board and administration as we move forward. There's going to be some hard work to do with this budget, there's no doubt. It's early -- we don't even know how much money the state's going to give us this year, let alone next year. We can actually use $1.2 million in reserves to balance the budget, so that does not take referendum into account.”

Dupuis commented that, “I'm appalled that our state representatives can't pass a budget for last year, and yet they require us to propose a budget for next year. It's a mystery to me that that can be required of us in the midst of their lack of ability to get a budget. I want to call on our community to hold our elected representatives responsible for appropriate fiscal management, and that includes getting a budget passed.”

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To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].