School budget tax increase planned

It’s number crunching time again for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board. Board members held a budget hearing Monday night on a proposed $87 million budget that calls for a tax increase of more than 6 percent for Chadds Ford Township property owners.

Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said; the budget "meets the needs of the students in a fiscally responsible and sustainable way." He said the budget makes investments in technology, infrastructure, and security and "student wellness, the student experience on a daily basis while [we continue] being good stewards of our taxpayers’ investment."

The proposed plan calls for a weighted tax increase of 1.56 percent. Sanville said that would be the lowest tax increase in the district in 20 years. However, the breakdown of that weighted average is an increase of 0.35 percent for Chester County property owners and 6.43 percent for property owners in Chadds Ford the only Delaware County municipality in the school districts. He acknowledged the Delaware County increase "is a startling number."

Bob Cochran, the director of business operations, said the tax jump raises a lot of questions but explained the disparity is based on requirements of the State Tax Equalization Board.

After determining what needs to be spent, Cochran said, the next step is to determine the tax rate. The equalization board requirements kick in after other sources of revenue — state, federal and other local revenues — are subtracted from the estimated expenses.

The equalization board determines the market value of taxable properties in each of the counties, and those figures are used to determine the tax revenue required from the counties involved. That breakdown, according to the presentation, calls for Chadds Ford property owners to cover 19.944 percent of the tax revenue. (Cochran said last year’s calculation had an almost even 19 percent coming from Chadds Ford.)

In determining the roughly 80 percent-20 percent split, Cochran explained that calculation is based on the market value of taxable properties in each county divided by the market value of all taxable properties in the district. The resulting figures, in real dollars, are then divided by the assessed value determined by the counties to determine the millage rate for the next academic year.

Those millage rates come to 28.51 mils for Chester County and 25.15 mils in Delaware County. With a mil being a tax of $1 on every $1,000 worth of assessed value, property owners in Chester County would pay 2.851 percent of their property’s assessed value. In Delaware County, that would be 2.515 percent.

Last year’s rates were 28.41 mils in Chester County, 23.63 in Delaware County.

The need for the increase comes from increases in salaries and wages — up $876,000 — benefits — up $659,000, along with increases in technology and debt service. The total expense increase is estimated at more than $2 million.

Of the $ 87 million budget, almost 73 percent of expenses go toward personnel costs, 9.65 percent is for debt service.

The board is expected to adopt the proposed final budget during its May 14 work session, then vote on the final budget on Monday, June 18. The specific numbers may change between now and the final vote.

A PowerPoint presentation of the budget can be found here: https://www.boarddocs.com/pa/uncf/Board.nsf/files/AYFQ8W666753/$file/May%207%20Budget%20Hearing%20Presentation.pdf

 

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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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