UCF tax hike may drop to 2.66%

Board hires new Vice Principal for Patton Middle School

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


New Charles F. Patton Middle School Vice Principal Devin Layton addresses the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Board of Education just moments before the board voted unanimously to hire her for the post, Monday night.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — If, as they say, the devil in the details, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District 2016-17 budget keeps sprouting new sets of horns, meaning it is not entirely clear which version of the budget will get approval next week at its June 20 meeting.

During Monday night’s Board of Education work session, yet another version of the budget, this one using slightly more in reserve funds and accounting for a modest reduction in property insurance would potentially lower the balanced tax increase to 2.66%.

As of right now, the board is still slated to vote on the previous budget proposal, one with a 2.77% balanced tax increase (2.7% in Chester County and 3.06% in Delaware County — the difference in rate is related to state equalization figures tied to the respective county’s real estate valuation), but an amendment to the motion would allow consideration of this new, lower tax proposal.

While the change doesn’t impact spending in the $84.5M budget, it has two material changes: it takes about $67,000 more from pension reserve to balance the budget and lowers the Delaware County portion of the increase below 3%. Board President Victor Dupuis said after reflection he felt uncomfortable with a tax increase above 3% in Delaware County and asked for an option to avoid it. The newest proposal calls for an increase of 2.59% in Chester County and 2.93% in Delaware County. Both remain above the Act 1 limit of 2.4% and use exceptions for pension and special education costs to exceed the limit.

“I don’t think the difference is a big number,” Dupuis said, “but it just feels better to me.”

The impact on local homeowners — not specifically quantified beyond a few dollars a year at most — is less of an issue than showing that the district is trying to keep increases to an absolute minimum, Dupuis said.

In other district news, in the only formal action taken by the board, it voted unanimously to hire Devin Layton as the new Vice Principal at Charles F. Patton Middle School, effective July 18. She will replace the retiring Jim Fulginiti. Layton is currently the acting principal at Penn Wood Middle School in the William Penn School District in Delaware County.

Patton Principal Tim Hoffman introduced Layton to the board, saying she really stood out as a candidate in a wide-ranging search to replace Fulginiti. She beat out 99 other applicants for the position, Hoffman said.

Layton said she was very excited to take up the new post and expressed appreciation for the transparency of the district — she was able to learn a great deal about Unionville-Chadds Ford from its online presence, she said.

Also, the board reviewed a proposal to replace the fuel pumping system at the district garage — likely a 16-week process from design, through bidding and final construction. Other options were considered, including buying fuel from local stations or even buying a pumping truck, but even with the expense (estimated at $175,000) of new pumps and management systems, it provided the lowest-cost option over five or more years of use.

There was an update on the ongoing saga that is the Unionville High School auditorium roof. Currently, the roof’s design and construction amplifies the sound of rain, making it difficult for performances in bad weather. A test of a possible remedy was conducted last month, per the architects and insurers, said Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Rick Hostetler — but the test inadvertently used the remedy material, not the original design material. The good news, Hostetler said, was that the new material, slated to be placed on top of the existing roof, worked. the bad news is that there still isn’t a baseline. A new test is expected to be conducted in the next few weeks, he said.

“We have every reason to believe that the test will be successful,” he said.

Dupuis noted some frustration at the length of time the process has taken, suggesting only last year’s state budget standoff seemed to last longer.

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