The Kennett School District's board of education voted unanimously on Monday to accept the preliminary budget for the 2006-07 school year.

The $58,261,388 budget -- a $3.6 million or 8.10 percent increase from last year -- is still subject to change, a statement backed by business manager Mark Tracy, who said that he's yet to see an adopted budget that is exactly the same as its preliminary counterpart.

The budget in its current incarnation will mean a 3.3 percent increase -- or .7 mills -- to local real estate taxes, bringing the rate to 21.57. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

This means the average taxpayer in Chester County will be paying approximately $4,194 per year in school taxes, a $136 or 3.3 percent increase from the last budget.

Local sources are expected to generate over $48 million of the district's revenue, with $40.3 million from current real estate taxes, an 8.13 percent increase from the previous budget.

The state's contribution will amount $9.2 million, an 8.19 percent increase, while the federal government accounts for only $975,764, up 10.12 percent.

This budget is the first to reflect the district's new deal with Krapf Transportation services, a decision that would save the board an estimated $158,000

"This action has a tremendous impact on the reported financial analysis in this budget ... with regard to budget-to-budget comparisons," the budget states.

Although the $3.4 million deal with Krapf -- an amount mirrored in this budget -- has eliminated the district's need to designate funds for bus driver salaries and benefits, bus leases, bus purchases, vehicle supplies and equipment, the transportation allocation has still gone up an additional $310,093, an 8.18 percent increase when compared to the 05-06 figures.

The $3.4 million appears in the "contracted services" line item of the budget, however, and not in the transportation section. The budget offers no additional explanation on the increase.

Salaries and fringe benefits will account for 59 percent of the 06-07 operating budget, down $185,397 from last year. According to the budget's explanation, 11 percent of the total increase is due to salaries and benefits, although the statistic is reduced by the elimination of the bus drivers and assistants. Total amount for salaries next year is $25,903,814.

While the salary amount may have decreased slightly, the employee benefits has increased by $680,301, likely due to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System's forced 4.69 percent increase of the district's contribution to employee retirement funds.

Increasing fuel costs have also accounted for a "significant" increase of $593,397. This includes supply and delivery costs for electricity, natural gas, heating oil and diesel and gasoline fuels. The district will be purchasing its fuel for the first time in a joint bid organized by the Chester County Intermediate Unit, and Krapf will supply a diesel storage tank for the district as a part of its transportation contract.

The district begins budget preparations in the fall, working through the year with the finance committee. The finance committee will meet twice more on May 1 and June 5 before the final budget is adopted at the June 12 regular business meeting. The public is encouraged to attend. All meetings begin at 7:00 and are in the district office except if otherwise noted.

@hedc:Other business

@bod:The district has hired Victoria Gehrt as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. Gehrt is the current superintendent in Bensalem Township and will begin her three-year contract with the board as of July 1.

The board conducted a nationwide seven-month search for the right person to fill the position, and according to Superintendent Rudy Karkosak, Gehrt is the perfect choice.

"I was very, very impressed with Dr. Gehrt's credentials and her level of experience," Karkosak said. "And her love is instruction and curriculum, which is what this position is all about."

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