School board approves final budget

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$71.1M spending plan gets 8-1 approval vote; no final decision on use fees

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Capping the end of one of the quietest school budget cycles in recent history, the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education approved the district’s 2012-13 budget Monday night.

The $71,128,330 spending plan passed by an 8-1 margin; the lone no vote came from Frank Murphy, who argued more funds should have been taken from the district’s reserve funds.

But the majority of his colleagues seemed to feel that with higher pension costs, possibly lower state aid and continued declines in local tax revenue, it would be better to save the reserve funds for the coming years, to allow the district to keep from cutting programs in the near term.

“I’m very worried about losing programs,” said board director Holly Manzone in defense of raising taxes — at a weighted number below 2% (Chester County taxes are expected to increase 2.65% while Delaware County residents will see a 1.74% decline because of the variance in overall property values between the two counties).

As a comparison, the neighboring Kennett Consolidated School District approved a 3.89% tax hike last week and for the last three years has been forced to tap into a dwindling reserve fund — and officials there predict that program cuts are likely for the 2013-14 school year. Relatively speaking, Unionville officials say, the district is better positioned to weather the coming storm, although Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said last month that the district is currently projecting a $1.5 million deficit for the 2013-14 school year.

In other district news, while the Board of Education formally approved the facility use policy, the new fee schedule has not been determined yet, Sanville said. He said he wanted to get more community input on the appropriate field use charges for non-profit groups such as Southern Chester County Soccer Association, the Unionville Recreation Association and KAU Little League.

While that decision is pending, member Gregg Lindner wanted to clarify his stance on the fee. In Linder’s absence, board member Kathleen Do suggested last week based her conversations that Linder would support the $6.50 incremental cost (the additional cost for field maintenance beyond the cost to use them strictly for school use) plus 10% or $7.15. During the Facilities Committee meeting, a lower incremental cost — $4.95 — was cited. Lindner said that he supported that number plus 10%, not the higher number.

Still as was the case during last week’s work session and Finance Committee meeting, virtually all board members seemed to support some sort of fee.

“This gives us a rational, reasonable system,” board member Jeff Hellrung said. “These costs are extremely modest.”

As expected, the board combined the Food Service and Transportation supervisor jobs, appointing long-time Food Service supervisor Marie Wickersham to the position. She replaces the retiring Gail Woefel in overseeing the district’s bus fleet and drivers.

The board also formally approved an increase in school lunch prices, as mandated by federal law, by .25. Elementary lunch will now be $2.50, while lunch in the middle school and high school will now cost $2.75.

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