Kennett school board cuts programs, staffing to close budget gap

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KCSD cutting math and literacy coaches, changing tech requirements to make up for losses in state funding

By P.J. D’Annunzio, Correspondent,

Kennett Consolodated School District Board of Education Members (from left) Douglas B. Stirling, Aline Frank, Heather Schaen, Douglas J. Doren, Shirley L. Annard, Michael H. Finnegan, Janis W. Reynolds, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Barry Tomasetti. PJ D'Annunzio photo.

LANDENBERG —  Thanks to cuts in state aid and shrinking property valuations, the Kennett Consolidated School Board agreed Monday night to slash various programs, reduce staff and raise taxes, just to maintain a fiscal equilibrium, in the wake of Gov. Tom Corbett’s wide-ranging proposed cuts to state education funding — unanticipated cuts that would cost the district $1.3 million in state aid.

With the state funding losses under Corbett’s proposed budget, the focus of discussions Monday night were the balance between cutting programs and raising local property taxes — planned to increase 3.84%, or about $180 for the average property in the Kennett Consolidated School District. The board opted to take exceptions from the Act 1 limit of 1.4% for special education and for pension expenses.

Last month, the board gave preliminary approval to a budget of $72,212,046, but that budget only accounted for about $500,000 in anticipated cuts from expiring stimulus funds. About $1.3 million in state cuts remain, forcing the board to find savings between now and the final approval of the budget.

Several attendees voiced their concerns about the about the local residents’ ability to cope with the increase in school taxes levied by the board in order to compensate for the lack of state funding.

“We are very sensitive to the burden put on the public,” board member Dr. Douglas Doren told the audience at Kennett Middle School.

Doren went on to reiterate that the shrinking tax base in the district — caused both by declining property values and reassessments — forced the increase in taxes for the purpose of keeping the funding of the district at maintenance level. At the same time, the district is planning the reduction of several faculty and staff positions to cut costs. Budget cuts have also affected the availability of supplies and services rendered to the district such as general office supplies, computers, and garbage collection.

As per the budget cuts, several programs within KCSD are to be eliminated.

The board introduced the Resolution Regarding Alteration or Curtailment of Programs, detailing the programs to be cut. Pending approval of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education, the district will remove programs to provide elementary and middle schools with literacy and math coaches, and alter technology requirements in curriculum, the physical and health program for high school students, and the reading support program by June 30, 2011. As a result of the elimination and alteration of these programs, several employees whom the district deems as “least senior” will be “furloughed, demoted, and/or reassigned,” as claimed in the resolution.

In other district news, Monday, Michael H. Finnegan was renamed Treasurer, after a unanimous vote by the board.

The board also touched on the incorporation of new technology by the Chester County Intermediate Unit within special education classes. Special needs students now have access to devices such as the Apple iPad to facilitate the learning experience. The addition of new technologies in special education classrooms illustrates the push of the CCIU to modernize the way students learn in the 21st century.

Finally, an update was given on the management of facilities with in the KCSD. Greenwood Elementary recently installed a set of double doors within its main lobby. The newly added doors were put in to discourage students from crowding the entryway into the building. The board also awarded contracts to Jemar Contracting LLC for the replacement of the roof of the Industrial Arts Building, and MNS Enterprises LLC for the replacement of window mounted air conditioning circuitry for both Greenwood and New Garden Elementary schools.

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