UPPER CHICHESTER >> The Chichester School Board unanimously adopted a 2017-2018 final operating budget totaling $72,880,178, reflecting a 1 percent increase - and the controversial furloughing of a social worker and technology coach.
Millage was set at 39.8561. A homeowner with a property assessed at $175,000 can expect to pay $6,974 in real estate taxes, an annual increase of $691.
Business manager Anthony Testa said due to a budget shortfall, it was necessary for the district to pull $1.8 million from the reserve fund.
He added that salary and benefit costs represent 70 percent of the total budget, adding that the Pa. State Employees Retirement System (PSERS) pension costs, after state reimbursement, totals $4.8 million; an increase of about $500,000.
In addition, the cost of cyber and charter school tuition is budgeted at $1.8 million and debt financing is just below $7.5 million.
Prior to the budget approval, several individuals rose to ask the board not to furlough social worker Vanessa Walker and technology coach Karleigh Bowen.
Boothwyn resident and Chichester Middle School sixth grade teacher Lucille Monte Dellosa said she finds it difficult to believe that the furloughing of the teachers and elimination of their positions will make any difference in the district’s deficit.
“In reference to the elimination of a social worker, do you really know our population that we deal with every day, do you know what goes on biologically between the ages of 10 and 14 years old?” Monte Dellosa said. “... The children Vanessa serves have just a little beacon of hope knowing that someone is there who cares. I can speak from experience and I know Vanessa is there for them ... And eliminating a technology coach, do you really think our professional development is sufficient?”
Resident Dean McMaster questioned the salaries of the top administrators, suggesting their salaries are too exorbitant.
And, even though retired special education teacher Joan Irwin said she knew the board did not want to hurt any teachers, she also questioned the proposed action.
“Many people are being hurt by this, especially the families of the Chichester School District,” Irwin said. “A few years ago the need was so great that a recommendation was made to hire two new social workers. I cannot imagine how you can possibly feel that things are so much better that we can get rid of even one social worker. I am saddened by this and I have to say, it’s is a terrible move.”
School Board President Ruth Ann Baiocco and Superintendent Kathleen Sherman both commented, saying the past three months have been extremely difficult in reference to the budget.
“The nearest thing to my heart is the Chichester students,” Baiocco said. “When this overwhelming budget was being discussed, the goal was to not cut anything, especially teachers and staff. The hardest thing I have ever done is look over this budget and eliminate, but we have to keep our taxes low. People are losing their homes, so we had to stick to the 1 percent (increase). I don’t want to lose Vanessa or Karleigh, and I hope that some of those furloughed can be called back. Believe me, nobody wants to hurt any of you or the students.”