UCF board takes look at reserve funds structure

10-year capital plan gets update, review

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

UCFLogoWebEAST MARLBOROUGH — The question of whether the Unionville-Chadds Ford needs to keep a dedicated a reserve fund to cover anticipated pension costs was the top point of discussion during Monday night’s Work Session of the Board of Education.

Currently, the district is carrying about $2.5 million in its pension reserve fund — a fund established to help manage spikes in pension contribution rates over the last five years. As those increases have finally begun to level, the question of whether the separate reserve fund is needed sparked conversation.

With the board expected to move some $597,000 of 2015-16 surplus into the capital projects budget, the question of whether the time had come to merge the pension reserve fund with the general unassigned balance fund — currently, a bit more than $3.3 million. Doing so would immediately restore the district’s reserve to 6.74% of its operating budget, in the range of 5% to 8% suggested by board policy and the district bond rating agencies.

Finance Committee chair Jeff Hellrung argued that the move would make it clearer about the total reserve fund being held by the district — a simpler way for district taxpayers to see where the district stands. Board member Gregg Lindner, who has long expressed concerns about the long-term impact of Act 1 of 2006 — the state limit on how much districts can raise taxes — and whether it would be even be possible to replenish the reserve should some major and unexpected expense drain the fund. Lindner was joined by Michael Rock in expressing concern — without any other board members seeming to express strong opinions either way.

The issue likely to be discussed and voted on at next week’s regular board session.

In another discussion about long-term spending, the district’s Director of Buildings and Grounds, Rick Hostetler, reviewed the status of the 10-year capital plan — with the program three years in and some $8 million spent, all funded via either from savings on the Unionville High School project or other savings, including bond refinancing and surpluses. While the maintenance and improvement program hasn’t needed financing to date, officials said it is likely that a bond issue may be needed in the spring of 2018 to continue the program — which is envisioned to add years and projects as years go by.

Much of the early spending has been committed to repairs and renovations at Charles F. Patton Middle School and Hillendale Elementary School. Both buildings went decades without any major work and now are seeing needs for infrastructure improvements.

Additionally, Patton got a new, more secure entrance and is just now putting the finishing touches on a completely renovated auditorium — it will serve as the site of the November board meeting – “sneak peek” pictures shown during the meeting revealed a facility that now has much in common with the new high school auditorium, with similar wood treatments and acoustic panels. While a few items remain to complete the project, the facility is now in use by students.

In the near future, Patton will need a new heating/ventilation/air conditioning system — and Hillendale will need HVAC work, as well.

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