UCF moves forward with 2.88% budget plan

No residents attend two-hour hearing; pensions biggest growth area

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

BudgetEAST MARLBOROUGH — It appears that Dancing With The Stars is a lot more popular than Budgets with The Board.

No residents attended Monday night’s Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education budget hearing (technically, this reporter is a resident and did attend as the lone media representative on site), although the meeting was live streamed and some 40 views have been recorded on the school’s You Tube site as of Tuesday morning.

Here’s what you (probably) missed:

The board seems to be in fairly general agreement on the broad strokes of the 2016-17 budget as proposed by the administration. It calls for a weighted increase of 2.88% — 2.82% in Chester County and 3.15% in Delaware County. The average Chester County homeowner would see an increase of $201.57 in the next fiscal year, while Delaware County residents would see an increase of $188.54. The higher rate and lower dollar averages are caused by differences in base year valuations between the two counties.

The budget exceeds the state Act 1 limit of 2.4% by using exceptions for special education and pensions, with the proposed budget using some $283,826 of an allowed $904,634 ($629,794 for pensions and $274,840).

“This is a budget with a focus on the children of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District,” Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said in opening remarks on the budget.

The budget does call for some modest increases, specifically by slightly trimming class sizes at both the middle school and elementary school — and suggesting a new formula for building staffing to better manage fluctuations in the size of a given year’s students — and the technology initiative that will put Chromebooks in the hands of all middle school students and broaden a rollout of a learning management system.

Annual increases continue in mandated special education spending — up roughly $100,000 (special education spending has gone from about $2 million during the 1996-97 school year to a planned $12 million in the 2016-17 while state special education funding has remained largely flat over that entire period at about $1 million) — and continued state-mandated funding of pensions, which combined with projected health care increases, mean an increase in benefits expense of $2.2 million, while wages are slated to increase by $888,420. According to Robert Cochran, the district’s Director of Business and Operations, pension costs remain the fastest growing segment in district expenses.

The total planned spending increase is just under $3.3 million in the proposed budget.

Although the basic frame doesn’t figure to change much between now and June 20, when the budget is expected to get final approval, there were a few points of discussion about the staffing levels and whether enough money is being budgeted to manage the planned repair and renovation works slated over the next decade. Those subjects are likely to be discussed in greater detail at next Monday night’s board work shop meeting.

In the only other action at the meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution saluting the district’s teachers in honor of national Teacher Appreciation Week.

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