KCSD adopts $94 million budget06/21/2022 01:42AM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Consolidated School District Board approved the operating budget for 2022-2023 and honored its retiring solicitor during the June 13 meeting at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center.
Chief financial officer Mark Tracy presented a budget of $94 million and added that the original estimate in February of a 2.02 percent real estate tax increase has been brought down to 1.78 percent.
The tax rate for property owners is 32.4358 mills. A mill is a tax of $1 on ever $1,000 of assessed property value.
At that rate, the average taxpayer whose property is assessed at $182,000 would owe $103 more than last year. However, Pennsylvania has a relief act that reduces the tax fee on homeowners called the “homestead exemption.” When applied to the tax bill for Kennett Consolidated School District residents this year, it reduces the average amount owed to an increase of about $49, Tracy said.
The newly approved budget will apply the anticipated additional state subsidies of $411,000 for basic education and special education, thus reducing that originally anticipated 2.02 percent increase, according to a report by Finance Committee chairman Mike Finnegan.
The major expenditure increases include the escalation of existing salaries, an uptick in medical insurance premiums, and the PSERS contribution increase.
The budget includes five new positions, a capital reserve transfer of $500,000, a contracted certified behavioral analyst, and a continued investment in technology and facilities. The general operating budget for the 2022-2023 school year held state and federal revenue at the same level with this current year, pending the completion of those budgets.
Local real estate revenue shows an increase of $1,313,356 from last year and an additional $1,530,257 from assessment growth. Other local sources include an increase of $150,000 in interim taxes, and $315,000 in earned income tax.
The board unanimously approved the appointment of Fox Rothschild LLP as its new solicitor firm.
Fox Rothschild replaces retiring Solicitor Jack Merrick, who has served in that position for the past 50 years.
Tracy said he could not proceed with the board action without words of thanks and praise for Merrick, a 1958 graduate of Kennett High School.
Tracy characterized Merrick, 81, as “one of a kind.” He said he has had many fruitful discussions with him at all hours of day or night, but that Merrick is essentially “nocturnal.”
Merrick’s family is strongly rooted in the Kennett Consolidated School District, as his mother was a student and then a teacher there for many years. His daughter is a graduate of the high school as well.
As he sat recently recalling his years as a student, Merrick pointed to the formerly segregated first floor windows of the school behind him that housed the black students. “I remember the Union rooms,” he said.
Merrick went on to his undergraduate education at Yale University and earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Forever a student, he is currently taking an online course from Harvard University.
A lifelong resident of Kennett Square, he served as a Chester County public defender for 48 years. In addition to serving as Kennett’s solicitor for 50 years, he served the same position for Unionville School District from 1985 to 2021.
He has known all of Kennett’s superintendents from Millman Prettyman through Dusty Blakey. He was serving as solicitor and dealt with the conflict over the school expansion plans in the early 1970s when it was proposed unsuccessfully to expand the auditorium and tear down the front steps.
Professionally, in his capacity as public defender, he has dealt with many memorable cases, but probably none was so well known as the defense of members of the Johnston Gang.
He also recalled the slaying of two Kennett Square policemen 50 years ago, when the funeral procession which included police from all over the nation passed by his house.
In conclusion to an hour-long discussion, he said he is happy to have spent a lifetime in Kennett Square.
“I never regretted coming back,” he said.
He added, “A friend told me, ‘You’ll always be a student even when you’re collecting Social Security.’ Well, I’m collecting Social Security, and I’m still taking courses from Harvard.”