West Chester Area School District Announces Preliminary Budget for 2024-25: Balancing Quality Education and Fiscal Responsibility

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WEST CHESTER, PA — In an attempt to balance the quality of education against rising costs, the West Chester Area School District (WCASD) in West Chester, Pennsylvania recently disclosed a preliminary budget for the school year 2024-25. The budget, which exceeds $322 million, devotes $5 million to the capital fund to alleviate costs related to an upcoming elementary school renovation. If we discount the capital fund transfer, the operating budget projects a $15 million enhancement – a rise of 4.98 percent from the current fiscal year’s allocations.

The lion’s share of the budget is designated to the district’s 1,580 employees’ salaries and the benefits accompanying them. This sector has seen an increase of $8.4 million, a jump of 5.4 percent from the current year. Another notable feature in the budget is the addition of $1.9 million in staffing costs. The augmentation in staffing costs is somewhat mitigated by curbing services previously outsourced as contracted services.

In the words of Dr. David Christopher, WCASD Superintendent, “The district’s preliminary budget prioritizes investing in our exceptional staff who are dedicated to supporting all students’ growth and achievement. While addressing rising costs, we’re strategically adding teaching roles and specialists to personalize instruction, meet diverse learning needs, and uphold our reputation for high-quality education.”

This budget announcement also underlines more than $4 million directly correlated to state and federal mandates. These include an increase in state pension expenses by $2.5 million, a hike of 6.1 percent over the current year’s budget, and $830,000 extra in transportation, a surge of 4.6 percent.

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Budget Final Millage 2023-24 Graph

The budget has been balanced with property tax increases of 1.3 percent for Chester County and 11.1 percent for Delaware County. The unequal increases are due to variations in market values reported to WCASD by the PA State Equalization Board (STEB). As per the latest STEB valuations, Delaware County’s market value inflated by 17.5 percent compared to previous year’s value, while Chester County witnessed a 9.4 percent rise. Due to this change in market value, taxpayers in Delaware County have to bear a larger portion of the tax burden. Despite the increased burden, the preliminary property tax rates for West Chester remain the lowest in Chester and Delaware counties.

The district’s savings from 2023-24 operations have been utilized to lessen the need for millage surges for the 2024-25 budget. The district’s undesignated fund balance stands approximately at $20.2 million.

Mr. Gary Bevilacqua, school board member and Chair of the Property & Finance Committee, further elucidated the tax increase for Delaware County residents caused by the latest market value of properties provided by the state. He assured constituents that the district remains committed to transparency and fiscal responsibility.

The 2024-25 District Tax Rates, based on the preliminary budget, suggest a rise of 1.3% for Chester County and 11.1% for Delaware County compared to the 2023-24 rates. Consequently, Chester County residents will see a $57.00 increase in their taxes and Delaware County residents an increase of approximately $553.00.

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