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Chester County Press

Kennett School Board approves preliminary budget

02/15/2021 03:12PM ● By Steven Hoffman

The Kennett Consolidated School District’s school board unanimously approved a preliminary budget totaling $90.4 million for the 2021-2022 school year. The budget includes a proposed 2.3 percent tax increase, and district officials said that they will be working to limit the tax increase when a final budget is adopted.

If the budget were approved as is, the millage rate would increase from 31.5 mills to 32.2 mills, and the average property owner would see a $131 increase in taxes over last year.

The average home in the Kennett School District is assessed at about $173,000, which translates into a bill of $5,838 for the coming year.

A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 worth of assessed property.

At the virtual school board meeting on Feb. 8, school board member and treasurer Michael Finnegan presented a breakdown of the budget numbers in a PowerPoint presentation. He said the projected expenditures drove the budget numbers that were arrived at, but that all the information about funding sources is not yet in. He said in the coming months, there is the possibility of bringing down the projected expenditures.

“That’s about $11 a month. We will try to bring that down,” he said of the tax increase. “For the last five years, we have come in under the preliminary. We don’t think these numbers are final.”

The major driver of expenses is salaries, benefits and professional and contracted services.  That includes the addition of three new positions – one of them a human resources manager. The other two will be covered by attrition, Finnegan said.

Salaries amount to $33.1 million. Benefits are $22.5 million with a major driver of those being 34 percent of salaries paid for retirement funds.

The contracted expenses are $14.9 million.

The major revenue sources are local taxes, at $70.6 million, and the basic education subsidy from Pennsylvania, which is projected to be $11.7 million.

Finnegan said the budget is available to the public on the Kennett School District website, and people may also stop at the superintendent’s office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to take a look at the spending plan in person.

In other business, Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey gave an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is affecting the district.

In addition to saying he was happy to see lowering numbers locally, he said there is a change in guidance on what the building positivity numbers are that would prompt a building to be closed. There is now more room for discretion on the part of the county health department and administrators on decisions about cleaning, contact tracing and quarantining, which will vary by the level of community transmission and the number of cases.

He then yielded to assistant superintendent Michael Barber to explain further.

Barber said now the number of cases in a particular building that prompt shutdown count only if they have tested positive in the last 48 hours. For example, if a student was in school on Monday and Tuesday, then not in school on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, they do not count as an in-school case.

Barber added that Kennett has not seen in-school transmission except on teams and in the community.

Additionally, he reported that the district has obtained 2000 antigen tests which yield results in 15 minutes. 

Blakey said in a previous meeting that being able to get the results immediately from people who claim not to be feeling well but don’t test positive for COVID-19 relieves them of the obligation to quarantine for 10 days.

He said the change in guidelines as well as the antigen testers bodes well for increasing the amount of time students will be able to spend in school. He is awaiting more Centers for Disease Control guidance and announcements from President Joe Biden on fully reopening schools.