KENNETT SQUARE—The official good news on Kennett school taxes is the bad news is better than it might have been.
The Kennett Consolidated School District board voted last night to approve their final 2019–2020 budget of $88.2 million. The final budget will include a tax increase of 2.07 percent, or about an extra $115 a year for the average household in the district.
The final, official tax bite is just under 9 percent less than the original preliminary budget proposed last April, which would have included a 2.27 percent increase on a budget of $86,337,497 and an extra payment of $123 on the average residential property.
Board Treasurer Michael Finnegan said at the time that the tax increase was made necessary primarily by salaries and benefits, especially by large hikes in the teacher retirement fund contributions the state required from school districts.
The state had for a long time underestimated the amount the fund needed, Finnegan said, and after the 2008 recession it imposed drastic increases in an effort to bring it up to more sustainable levels.
But Finnegan said the board hoped to whittle down the tax increase. And by the next month, he was able to announce that adjustments to the budget would make that possible.
Monday night, Finnegan said one helpful factor was an increase in state subsidies that brought an extra $116,000 into the school revenues.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to hire the Chester County Intermediate Unit as the search firm to help find a replacement for Superintendent Barry Tomasetti, who plans to retire early next year. Board President Joseph Meola said the unit staff knew the district well and would conduct the search in a very professional way.
Assistant Superintendent Michael Barber said he was sad to say that Raymond Fernandez, an assistant principal at the high school, would retire at the end of the month. Several board members said Fernandez was liked and respected by the entire school community.
The board also heard a report from Joan Holliday and others about the Kindergarten Readiness Project, in which people from a variety of community organizations arrange and promote activities in the community that help parents get their young children ready for school.
Outreach programs help parents learn about the importance of simple enrichment activities such as playing with young children (the target age is birth to 5) to increase their language skills, Holliday said.
Holliday said the project’s motto is “Learning begins at birth, school begins at home.”