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Chester County Press

Avon Grove adopts $96.9 million budget for 2018-2019

06/10/2018 11:28PM ● By Steven Hoffman

The Avon Grove School Board adopted a $96.9 million final budget for 2018-2019 school year at its meeting on June 7. The vote was 5 to 3 to approve the spending plan.

A tax increase of 3.090 percent will be necessary to balance the budget. The millage rate will increase by .92 mills, to 30.6900 mills, for the fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2019.

For the owner of a property with an assessed value of $169,900, which is the average in the district, the tax bill will be going up by approximately $150 as a result of the tax increase.

In recent weeks, district officials were able to reduce the expenditures by about $215,000 over what had been included in the proposed final budget that was considered by the school board in May.

District officials had spent more than eight months developing and discussing the budget so the conversation about the spending plan before the vote was fairly limited.

School board member John Auerbach expressed his disappointment that the tax increase approaches the Act 1 limit, particularly since the annual budgets will be more difficult in the next few years as the district embarks on a major construction project on a new high school and a renovation of the current high school, which is being transformed into a middle school.

School board member Bill Wood took exception to some of Auerbach’s comments about the spending plan, pointing out that district officials had thoroughly discussed the budget, and there had been no suggestions about how to trim funding without impacting the educational program.

Wood said that he didn’t like the idea of raising taxes, either, but some costs beyond the district’s control, such as the PSERS retirement costs, make it necessary.

Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese defended the budget. “We are facing and we will continue to face unfunded mandates from the Pennsylvania Department of Education,” Marchese said. He added that a number of districts in the county are seeking exceptions to the Act 1 Index limit to balance the budget this year.

“This is a sound budget that keeps our educational program moving forward,” Marchese said. “This budget is supporting things that we need. There’s not anything in this budget that I would consider as a 'want.'”

The superintendent also noted that the district faces some uncertainty when it comes to projected revenues because of the possibility that Jennersville Regional Hospital will have its tax status changed. The hospital was sold last year, and the previous owner, Community Health Systems, was a for-profit company while the new owner, Tower Health, has not-for-profit status. Tower Health has sought relief from property taxes. That could amount to a $530,000 loss in revenues to Avon Grove—and that would be $530,000 every year.

Overall, the Avon Grove budget expenditures for 2018-2019 are increasing by approximately $3.2 million over the 2017-2018 school year, when expenditures are budgeted at $93.6 million.

One of the biggest items impacting the budget, once again, is the state-mandated pension costs, which will total a projected $10.9 million for Avon Grove in 2018-2019. That's an increase of approximately $500,000 over the current year.

In other business at the meeting:

High school principal Scott DeShong offered the annual look at the senior class profile. There are 437 members of Avon Grove High School's Class of 2018. The school distributes a survey to all the students to find out what they plan to do following graduation.

According to this year's survey, 89 percent of the seniors will be pursuing post-secondary education, typically either a four-year degree program or a two-year degree program. DeShong said that the 89 percent figure is very similar to last year, when 91 percent of those seniors surveyed said that they were going to pursue post-secondary education.

Of those who are pursuing post-secondary education, 77 percent are going to four-year programs, while 23 percent will be enrolling in two-year programs.

The members are heading off to 103 different institutions. DeShong said that 73 percent of the seniors are enrolling in in-state schools, while 27 percent plan to go to out-of-state schools.

The most popular schools, predictably, are usually the ones that are closest to Avon Grove. There are 69 students heading to Delaware County Community College, while another 39 students are enrolling in Penn State campuses. West Chester Unviersity, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Millersville University also rank among the top schools. For out-of-state schools, the University of Delaware was a top choice of Avon Grove students, with 13 students enrolling there.

While many students opted to stay closer to home for their post-secondary education, others enrolled at schools all across the country.

“We have kids going all over the country,” DeShong said. He noted that two Avon Grove students will be studying at Yale University, and a handful of other students are joining the military academies.

DeShong said that the students were also surveyed about the areas of interest that they intend to pursue, with STEM being selected by 38 percent of the students and health sciences being identified by 22 percent of the students.

DeShong said that 80 students in the senior class earned $150,700 in local scholarships, and 104 students self-reported that they are receiving $2.5 million through other scholarships so that they can pursue their education.

The district's next Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, when officials will conduct interviews of construction management firms bidding to oversee the construction projects, will take place on Thursday, June 14 at 6 p.m. at Avon Grove Intermediate School. A special meeting to select the construction management firm and to interview architectural firms will take place on Tuesday, June 26, starting at 6 p.m. The school board will then select an architectural firm on July 9. The next regular school board meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23.

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected]

SLUG: Avon Grove June 7