2014-15 budget passed with 2.66% tax increase
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
POCOPSON — It could be as long as a month before the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education appoints a replacement for Eileen Bushelow, after the board deadlocked Monday night on a vote for a replacement.
The board now plans to meet July 14 to vote on the matter after Robert Sage and Hsinte (James) Yen both got four votes each in the second and third ballots. Bennett Baird earned two votes in the first ballot and was eliminated from further voting, as Yen and Sage earned three votes each on the first ballot.
All three candidates will remain in consideration.
A fourth candidate, Arnie Klingenberg, withdrew from consideration Monday afternoon.
The board will take another crack at voting in a special meeting July 14, unless 10 or more residents of Region B (Birmingham, Pocopson and Newlin) petition the Chester County Court of Common Pleas to take up the matter. The board had 30 days from Bushelow’s resignation to name a replacement — those 30 days are up June 28, which would allows the courts to intervene and appoint Bushelow’s replacement.
Board president Victor Dupuis suggested that the differences between the candidates were slight and difficult for the eight board members to easily pick between. And picking a new colleague — Dupuis suggested — is always best done by the voters, not the board, even if that is what the current situation requires.
“This (picking a new board member) is not what we’re supposed to do as a board,” he said, suggesting that the preference is to have members selected by voters, leaving members uncomfortable with the process. “It’s not an amenable situation for the board.”
In other district news, the board unanimously passed the $75,986,081 2014-15 school budget — which calls for a balanced tax increase of 2.66% (2.76% in Chester County and (2.26% in Delaware County). Although the final vote was 8-0, there was a bit of sparring between board members Keith Knauss and Michael Rock over whether teacher salaries — and the current contract with the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association — were directly to blame for the tax increase.
Knauss maintained that the increase, above the Act 1 limit of 2.1%, had it’s roots in the most recent contract signed with the teachers and it should be considered when new negotiations on a contract begin in January, 2015.
“This budget was set one and a half years ago when we signed a teacher contract calling for a 3% salary increase,” Knauss said.
Rock disagreed and said in order to maintain the high level of achievement, the district must be prepared to pay appropriate wages to attract and keep the best teachers and that taxpayers are getting very good value — in arguably the best school district in the state — for their tax dollars.
“I don’t view the increase as excessive,” said Rock, who is also an economics professor at Bryn Mawr. He said he feels that spending is directly connected to student performance.
While Knauss said he disagreed, Rock noted “the overwhelming evidence is the exact opposite.”
The two agreed to discuss the issue in greater depth, one-on-one.