School board sets budget, taxes up

Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors approved the district's 2017-2018 budget during their June 19 meeting. The budget does include a tax increase for property owners.

Appropriations for the next academic year are $84.9 million with real estate taxes for property owners in the Chester County portion of the district levied at 28.42 mills. Property taxes in Chadds Ford, the only Delaware County Township in the district, are going up to 23.63 mills. (A mill is a tax of $1 for every $ 1,000 of assessed property value.)

The increases in the two counties are 2.6 percent in Chester County and 0.3 percent in Delaware County. Director Bob Sage, who chairs the finance committee, said the increase is within the Act I limits, so it doesn't require a referendum.

Sage added that the $84.9 million would cover all of the expenses for the district's academic program.

One director would have preferred a larger increase. The vote was 7-1 with Director Gregg Lindner voting against the budget. Lindner said he was concerned about a dwindling reserve fund.

"I've said a couple of times throughout the discussions that I have full agreement with what the learning plan is for the year and no disagreements with what's needed to fund the particular plan. The concern I have is what's occurred over the last few years with the reserves. Those reserves have shrunken quite a bit," Lindner said.

He added that previous budgets during his six years on the board increased reserve fund balances. Over the next few years, he added, taxes would likely go up more than they have in the last decade.

"My concern is that we'll either have to reduce the plans we have for building maintenance…or we'll have to look at things that are going to end up being cut. I made a modest proposal to add $100,000 to the tax rate, which would have brought the tax rate up to about a 2.35 [percent aggregate increase], which would still be under the Act I index," Lindner said.

He said he did that to bring to light that the board is dong things that will be "detrimental to the local jewel that we have in this area, which is our schools."

Sage said he hopes there won't come a time when Lindner could say "I told you so."

School Board Vice President Jeff Hellrung said the district would likely be able to fund whatever is needed because of the district's continually growing tax base, allowable Act I increases and the use of allowable dollar amount exceptions to the Act I limits.

"I'm wanting to raise taxes as much as needed to run our programs short term and long term, and not a penny more, but I realize Mr. Lindner could be right," Hellrung said. "In my judgment, this proposed budget works for, both short term and long term, considering all the tools we will have going forward."

Other business

The board voted to hire Michael Audevard to replace Steve Dissinger as principal of Hillendale Elementary School. Audevard previously taught at Chadds Ford Elementary School and was most recently an administrator in the Garnet Valley School District.

Dissinger was promoted to principal of CF Patton Middle School after Tim Hoffman was promoted in February to district director of curriculum and instruction.

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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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