Kennett Square >> Residents of the Kennett school district might see their real-estate taxes go up by 2.27 percent under a proposed preliminary budget.
The board members of the Kennett Consolidated School District voted unanimously at their monthly meeting Monday night to adopt a preliminary budget for 2018–2019. The $86,3.3 million budget would increase taxes for the average school-district household by $123, according to board member Michael H. Finnegan, the board treasurer.
Among the major “expenditure drivers” Finnegan noted were salaries and benefits. Existing salaries will add $745,021 to the coming year’s budget, a 2.43 percent increase, according to Finnegan’s presentation on the budget. The school board also plans to add one new teaching position, and foresees no retirements at this point, although that could change.
As in previous years, Finnegan noted that the state retirement system is causing rising expenditures for local districts. The net increase to the budget after state subsidies is $296,447, Finnegan said, a 5.99 percent increase.
Finnegan said the state underfunded the system in the years before the recession of 2008, wrongly confident the economy would continue to grow. After 2008 state officials required hefty and rising increases in retirement-fund contributions from local districts.
“That’s a big bill that we get every year from the state and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Finnegan said.
Medical and prescription insurance also contribute to rising costs, Finnegan said.
Finnegan said officials were also concerned about the amounts charged by charter schools that seemed high compared to what comparable services would cost the district’s regular schools.
The budget includes a $714,330 contribution from the district’s fund balance the district put in to lower the tax burden on homeowners, Finnegan said. He also said proposals in the state budget could mean, if things go well, that the final tax increase could go down to 1.94 percent.
The final budget would be adopted in June, Finnegan said.
In other business, the board discussed a motion from board member Dominic Perigo to delay any redistricting in the borough to keep class sizes equal until the effect of proposed development in the district was better understood. Redistricting now would be premature, Perigo said.
Board member Victoria Gehrt said she was sympathetic with Perigo’s position but had thought the whole question would be brought up at the March finance committee meeting. She was uncomfortable voting for the proposal until the matter could be discussed more, she said.
Other board members said they were also sympathetic to Perigo’s concern. New member William Brown said the district could look at redistricting if it had no other option to keep class sizes equal. Mark Bowden, another new member, said redistricting was “a drastic remedy, and it might not be necessary.”
Superintendent Barry Tomasetti said the borough had no local elementary school, so it made sense to send students who lived there to other schools if redistricting became necessary.
Perigee withdrew his motion on the understanding that district would examine other options to achieve class-size parity, which he said he supported. He added he would fight “tooth and nail” against any effort to redistrict the borough.
In other business, Tomasetti said the administration had recommended a trial privatization of custodial positions that currently were not filled. He emphasized that currently employed custodians would not be affected by this. Using an outside service would be more efficient, he said. Assistant Superintendent Michael Barber said it was hard to find applicants to fill the positions.
Tomasetti also said the district would add a new coach for the currently large track team.