Coatesville, Chester County

Coatesville, Chester County. (Photo by Jon Dawson, Flickr)

The Coatesville Area school board is hoping to raise the bar on the buzz surrounding the Chester County district’s $188 million 2019-20 proposed budget.

If it passes this June, the spending plan will raise taxes by 2.25 mills, representing a 6.12 percent tax increase.

Board member Robert Marshall Jr. said last week that board members have been called “crooks” on social media and accused of lining their own pockets since February’s budget presentation.

“Not one of us is getting one dime,” Marshall said. “My hope is we can go through this without name-calling and antagonizing each other. There will have to be some tough decisions made.”

Significant increases in charter school enrollment, plus higher special education and retirement costs are the main reasons for the budget increase, according to the district.

Coatesville says 310 more students than anticipated enrolled in charter schools this year, and the district’s charter school bill is likely to increase by more than $6 million in 2019-20.

The district estimates revenue of about $179 million for 2019-20, leaving it with the task of reducing costs by $9.2 million or raising taxes to meet the $188 million bottom line. The district last month petitioned the state Department of Education to raise taxes above the 2.9 percent Act 1 index that places a tax cap on the district.

The board said this spring they will refine the budget and talk to legislators about charter school funding reform.

Superintendent Cathy Taschner said the decisions ahead are very difficult, and she hopes the school and community can work together with a “positive, practical and purposeful spirit.”

In other business, the board waived about $17,000 in facility fees for use of schools and fields by school and community groups, including Caln Little League and the Boy Scouts.

Robin Seagreaves, president of Coatesville Football Boosters, said waiving fees is “inconsistent.” She said fees aren’t waived for the football team, which is financially supported by boosters.

The board also approved a $1,000 donation from the Chester County Economic Development Council and $300 from the NAACP. The donations will help fund the March 29 Student Problem Identification and Resolving Issues Together Summit to be hosted by Coatesville students.

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