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Chester County Press

Kennett School Board gets a first look at next year’s budget

02/14/2023 11:17AM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett School Board members got a first look at the 2023-24 preliminary budget at its meeting on Monday. They were pleased to report that, as it is projected now, the tax increase for property owners will probably be less than 1 percent.
Next year’s budget was prepared by CFO Mark Tracy and presented by treasurer and board member Mike Finnegan.
The future total operating budget as shown this month is $98.1 million, with $76 million to be paid by local taxes and $22.1 million coming from state and local taxes. The increase in the bill for property owners in the district is anticipated to be .93 percent over the current year. The rate of taxation for the district is estimated to be 32.7372 mills, and the average property owner will at this rate pay $55 more than last year. An average taxpayer who last year paid $5,914 at that rate will pay $5,969 this year.
A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
There is still time to find additional revenues or cost savings.
“That’s the good news,” Finnegan said, adding that significant real estate growth in the district has contributed $1.4 million to the overall assessment, keeping the need for an increase lower.
The presentation of the preliminary budget in February is only the first estimate of the spending plan. The final approval does not come until June, Finnegan said.
Between now and the final vote, the district will be receiving information about the state education budget and what the effect on school funding a current lawsuit that questions the fairness of distribution of state funds will have.
“We’ll take several shots. In the past few years we have been able to reduce it,” Finnegan said.
He showed a pie chart that demonstrated the biggest expense from the budget is in salaries and benefits, accounting for $60.5 million. Other major expenses are professional services, purchased services, supplies, equipment and debt.
Another expense that rises every year is retirement investment for staff, which this year is 34 percent of salary but is anticipated to increase to 38.35 percent by 2030-31.
Tracy also provided a video presentation showing what the coming New Garden Elementary School will look like both inside and out. The district has approved replacing both New Garden and Greenwood elementary schools with projects that will culminate in openings in Sept. 2026.
The planned New Garden Elementary School will have a two-story classroom area attached by ramps to an activity area that includes a library, gym, auditorium, offices, nurse’s unit and cafeteria, according to his report. There will be increased area for parental student drop-off and bus lanes separate from car traffic.
The total cost of the two-school project is estimated to be $110 million.
Tracy also reported that meetings will take place later this month with the New Garden supervisors and the New Garden Planning Commission. There will be a public meeting for the New Garden PTO on Feb. 23.
A similar presentation for Greenwood Elementary School is coming in the near future.
In other business, Tracy reported that the district is ready to sell a 7-acre plot of land that sits on the edge of the Kennett Middle School property. It used to be a farm, but it is now deserted and in partial dilapidation. The board still has to determine the details of the sale.