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Chester County Press

Kennett School Board scales back proposed tax increase

04/17/2024 04:51PM ● By Chris Barber

The Kennett Consolidated School District Board discussed a reduction in the previously proposed hike in taxes for the coming 2024-25 school year at its April 8 meeting.

During the January meeting, school board member and Financial Committee chair Michael Finnegan presented a preliminary budget with a 4.8 increase for the upcoming school year. It would have placed an additional $278 burden on average property owners who last year paid $5953 in property taxes.

At April’s meeting, however, Finnegan announced that there have been decreases in several expenditures, including staff retirements costs, special education costs, reduced enrollment and self-insurance, as well as an increase in overall state funding. As a result, the school district’s anticipated tax increase is now at 2.8 percent, or a $168 increase for the average property owner.

“In January, the proposed budget listed an increase of 4.8, which was higher than I was comfortable with,” Finnegan said.

He added that the current announced general operating budget for next year is $103.7 million, an increase from $98.6 million for this year.

“That is the first time since I was here that it was over $100 million,” he said.

A written accounting of the details of the 2024-25 budget shows a $2.9 million increase in professional services and a $229,000 reduction in contracted services. The bill for employee benefits went from $36.6 million in 2023-24 to $38.3 million in 2024-25.

The final vote on the budget will be on June 10.

School district CFO Mark Tracy announced that the cost of construction for the new Greenwood Elementary School has risen.

He said that considering inflation and lessons learned from bids awarded on New Garden Elementary for similar materials and services, the estimated increase is a little over $6 million, “mostly due to updating hard project construction costs and doubling the cost of demolition based on the New Garden bids.”

He added that in reviewing the financing strategy, even with the increased estimates, the district is still within the planned contingencies and will be able to stick to the bond issue schedule that will require no increase of debt service or tax increases due to construction for the life of the projects.

In other business:

School Board President David Kronenberg announced that 34 applications from 12 states have been received from individuals seeking to replace Superintendent Dusty Blakey, who announced that he will retire in mid-July.

The Board approved as well a contract with “Reading Allowed,” a company which helps with children who have trouble reading. The cost was not announced and it was not stated in the board agenda.

Director of Human Resources Chris Marsala presented a report from a lengthy project she is heading to deal with student homelessness, which she said is about 250 in number in the Kennett Consolidated School District.

The definition of homelessness, she said, is not just the lack of a dwelling to live in, but it

involves economic hardship, domestic violence, abandonment in hospitals, instability, living in cars or abandoned buildings, or living with other school age children if they have no other place.

The details of the policy state that these students must be provided with waivers for protection in areas of clubs, graduation, athletics, materials and dress code, among many other factors.