Unionville finalizes tax hike at 1.1%

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Compromise wins unanimous support from board members; district still has to lay off staff

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — When it came to picking between tax increases of 1.0% and 1.4%, in Chester County,  the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education came up with an interesting pick: neither.

Instead, during Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the board opted unanimously for a 1.1% increase (4.75% in Delaware County) — a boost of a little under $60,000, or about $5 per average property over going with the previously approved 1.0% — as hitting the right mix of fiscal responsibility and financial flexibility. The total tax increase amounts to about $600,000 or $50 yearly for the average property owner, although the district is projecting more than $2 million in lost revenue between state funding and lower tax collections.

Still, even with the tax increase, the board was forced to eliminate a number of positions, including 10 support staffers, one part-time teacher and will cut hours for a number of other positions — thanks to both declining local tax revenue and the specter of proposed cuts in state funding.

According to Keith Knauss, the board finance committee chairman, the school administration recommended either holding at 1.0 or going to 1.1%, not going to the 1.4% maximum allowed under Act 1, the state’s law regulating public school budgets. With the board likely split — based on comments in the last couple of weeks, members saw an opportunity to compromise and reach consensus.

“Mrs. (School board president Timotha) Trigg and I felt this would get the most board support,” Knauss said.

The change in tax rate means the district will not have to take money from reserves to meet the 2011-12 budget — although it still remains likely that most of some projected $820,000 in state funding will be restored to the district — possibly as early as the end of this week — as state house members, state senators and Gov. Tom Corbett negotiate a final state budget deal. Corbett’s proposed budget would have slashed some $1.1 million in state funding from the initial budget passed in February.

The budget given final approval Monday does not count on any of the $1.1 million being restored — and it is expected if the funds do show up, some will be held in reserve for future years, while some may be used to restore some of the job and program cuts made by the district for 2011-12. Decisions on that issue will be taken up once the final numbers are in, possibly starting with the August board meeting.

Those who previously argued for the higher tax rate conceded that the compromise offered a better financial balance, especially in the next few years, which could be challenging.

“I believe that just as difficult as it is to lay off people — and it’s hard letting people go — a lot of things just wouldn’t be sustainable,” member Holly Manzone said.

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4 Comments

  1. Ray Farrell says:

    Scott,

    I’m sorry you don’t see the obvious.
    If the UCFEA cared about anything other than themselves they would donate all or a portion of their dues receipts to help save some of the jobs that were cut.
    Ray Farrell
    Pocopson, PA

  2. Scott Litzenberg says:

    Mr. Farrell,

    With all respect – What??? We pay our dues out of our own pockets. The district does not pay that. Wow, hatred and misinformation in the same sentences, sad…

    “the UCFEA union bosses removed $191,658 from of our school district and sent it to their fat-cat PSEA lobbyists in Harrisburg. Unbelievably, every school year huge amounts of taxpayer money is taken from our teachers in the form of union dues and sent out of our school district. This money could have easily been kept in our school district to save these jobs. Jobs I might add that relieve our teachers from many administrative duties so they can spend more time in the classrooms. The union’s hollow chant of “it’s for the children” just doesn’t hold any water.”

  3. Ray Farrell says:

    I attended Monday night’s school board meeting and was once again struck and impressed with the performance of our school board. Their measured tones and thoughtfulness made me feel my kids are in good hands with this group of people. Are they perfect…of course not. Are they doing the best they can to find the important balance between cost and outcome…I say yes.

    The big news of this meeting of course is that the budget for school year 2011-2012 was passed totaling $69,675,794, which included a 1.1% tax increase to property owners in our district.

    The sad news was the elimination (firing) of 10 administrative assistants, who’s low paying jobs didn’t quite fit into the budget.

    Also, the teachers union contract impasse with our school board was briefly discussed with no resolution in sight.

    Mostly it seems the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association (UCFEA) wants more while we all do with less. It is obvious that the UCFEA union bosses are sitting on their hands and are clearly unwilling to pitch-in to help our school system as our economy takes a nose-dive (just ask our bus drivers). To illustrate this point, as our school board went through the excruciating process of firing 10 school employees, the UCFEA union bosses removed $191,658 from of our school district and sent it to their fat-cat PSEA lobbyists in Harrisburg. Unbelievably, every school year huge amounts of taxpayer money is taken from our teachers in the form of union dues and sent out of our school district. This money could have easily been kept in our school district to save these jobs. Jobs I might add that relieve our teachers from many administrative duties so they can spend more time in the classrooms. The union’s hollow chant of “it’s for the children” just doesn’t hold any water.

    Ray Farrell
    Pocopson, PA

    • parent/taxpayer/teacher says:

      It is too bad that the politicians continue to let teachers take the fall for the budget shortages that are being fabricated. I am sorry, but there is plenty of waste in our political system that could be addressed before we cut budgets on the backs of children and teachers. Teachers work long hours and no, they are not off for three months in the summer….they get off late in June and go back late in August—so they do get two months off–they are also NOT PAID for that two months off and many of them take classes or have to work to supplement their incomes since HELLO!! their mortgage payments and rent don’t stop in the summer. The pay is so poor….especially for young teachers just starting out….and yet they still SPEND THEIR OWN money to buy books, supplies, and craft materials to engage our kids.

      I am so tired of hearing older community members going before school boards and whining about their tax costs—when half of them are travelling between two homes and hitting every casino from Pa to Florida on the way. Stop whining and if you don’t want to pay the taxes…..please move.

      We chose to live in this district for the high quality of education that we wanted for our children. If you don’t want to contribute for the good of the community and the future of this country then shame on you. These kids are working their summer jobs and guess what they pay taxes for your social security in the process even though they are only making minimum wage…they just do it because that is how it works…you pay it forward for the common good.

      It is pretty sad that we live in a society the pays strippers more than it does teachers. What is wrong with us?

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