It’s budget talk season for U-CF

School budget talks are ramping up, but it will be May before Unionville-Chadds Ford district residents know the details of the 2016-2017 academic year budget.

Bob Cochran, the district’s business manager, told members of the school board during the April 11 work session that full details will be available to the public beginning with the May 2 budget hearing.

There had been a right to know request filed for information, but that request was denied, he said.

What is known, as has been previously reported, is that there will be a property tax increase for district property owners. Those taxes will go up 2.8 percent in Chester County and 3.15 percent for property owners in Delaware County — Chadds Ford Township. That amounts to a 2.88 percent weighted average increase.

Those figures could change by the time the board adopts the final budget in June.

Those increases exceed the state’s Act 1 limits of 2.4 percent, but the district will be using exception dollars — $284,000 — for special education and pension fund so that there will be no need for a referendum on the tax increase. (Act 1 allows for some expenditures to be exempt from the tax increase limit.)

Cochran and the school administration did go over some of the details.

“The budget, on an overall basis, both in revenues and expenditures, has taken out part of the conservative nature we have traditionally had,” Cochran said.

He said there are areas where traditional cushions have been trimmed, but there is a budgetary reserve of $150,000 specifically for special education. The full reserve is $588,000.

Cochran added that the budget includes technology incentives and teacher training.

Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said the proposed budget “maintains our high level of program and service to our students and are proud to provide…Initiatives in this budget go directly to the classroom.”

One of those initiatives will bring Chrome Books to the middle school, others expand the use of the district’s learning management system and make staffing adjustments that reduce class sizes, he added.

“This is a budget that invests in our children in a very real way, while also appreciating the investment made by our community,” Sanville said.

Some known expenses involve improving buildings and grounds.

Rick Hostetler, the director of buildings and grounds, said the district would be spending $42,000 on custodial supplies next year, $10,000 on trash bags, and more than $48,000 on carpeting at Hillendale, Pocopson and Unionville elementary schools.

The district will also pick up another $10,000 from PennDOT. The transportation department is planning to take some property for a right of way in front of Pocopson Elementary School through eminent domain. PennDOT wants to put in a right turn lane at the intersection of Pocopson Road and Route 926.

Hostetler said the land acquisition and installation of the right turn lane are in conjunction with the Route 926 Bridge project. However, the district will meet with Pocopson Township officials next week to make sure easements and rights of way were not already granted to the township when the school was built.

“We don’t anticipate any issues, but we’re covering our bases,’ Hostetler said.

The district also stands to get back as much as 75 percent of what it spent on plowing and other storm related costs from the blizzard in January. That reimbursement will come through FEMA, Hostetler said.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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