Budgets and buildings at UCF

On a night when Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board directors approved a proposed final budget, they also heard a presentation about a possible new middle school.

The proposed final budget which will be up for a vote on June 17, calls for revenues of $105.812 million with expenditures of $105.838 million. It also calls for property tax increases of 2.07 percent for Chester County property owners and 11.06 percent for property owners in Chadds Ford Township, the only Delaware County municipality in the district. Millage rates in the proposal are 32.61 mils in Chester County and 18.57 mils in Chadds Ford. (A mil is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.)

Budget figures as presented may be found here. The figures may still change between now and the final vote next month. Director Brian Schartz, who lives in Chadds Ford, said he hopes the tax burden will be reduced by the June 17 vote, specifically saying he’d like to see the Chadds Ford millage rate drop to less than 10 mills.

“I continue to support the general levels of expenditures, but I have real heartburn about the disparate tax burden increases that we’re putting on different members of our community, particularly in Delaware County,” Schartz said. “I feel the increase of tax rates is impalpably high. I feel, perhaps arbitrarily, that something in the single digits, under 10 percent, would be a magic number for me to support the final budget.”

He added that he was in an unusual position, moving to advance a budget that he would currently vote against.

The vote to approve the proposed final budget was 6-3. Schartz, Jody Allen, and Erin Talbert voted no. All three represent Region C.

Before the budget discussion, however, the board heard a presentation from Superintendent John Sanville about the possibility of building a new middle school. During the presentation, Sanville repeatedly stressed that no decision has been made even though the current status of CF Patton Middle School is a “chronic concern.” He suggested that the board vote in June on a possible feasibility study. Sanville also said there would be no more information to make public without that study.

“Given the fact that the middle school is a chronic concern, it’s something we hear about all the time, should we take the time as a board, as a community, to look at the possibility to whether or not build a new middle school,” Sanville said.

Items involved in CF Patton Middle School upkeep.

In stressing that no decisions have been made, he asked the entire board to repeat aloud “No decisions have been made.” He also asked members of the press to lead with “no decisions have been made,” adding, “and that is the case.”

CF Patton Middle School was built in 1972 and has had three major additions, 1980, 1987, and a third in 1997.

“Each of these additions wrapped around the outside of the building, in essence encapsulating classroom after classroom with each successive addition,” Sanville said. “So, what has happened is you end up with a building that 70 percent of the classrooms have no windows, no natural light. Adding insult to injury, most of the hallways…have no natural light.”

He said the original design had lots of natural light, but the additions blocked all that extra light.

Sanville said the replacement value of the school right now, to rebuild it as is, would be $61.5 million. The estimated upkeep of the school over the next 30 years is $46 million. Among those upkeep costs are the roof, HVAC, electrical systems bathrooms, ADA compliance measures, and several others. To build a completely new school would cost an estimated $100 million, he added.

And he again repeated, “The driving factor right now, or a critical factor is that no decisions have been made. If we build a new middle school over the next five years, it is conceivable that we could open a new middle school in the fall of 2029.” But he added that even if that should come to pass, the current building needs to remain viable for those five years at an upkeep cost of $1.6 million.

Sanville also said the district can afford to build a new school.

His proposed timeline for further discussion includes a board vote next month on whether to conduct a feasibility study, then have community discussions and information sessions from June to November, drafting feasibility study presentations from October into January, and then a board vote to continue or discontinue the conversation on building a new middle school.

Sanville’s full PowerPoint presentation can be found here.

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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