Medford: A year in review January-June

Here is a look back at some of the people and events that made the news in 2012. Check back tomorrow for some more of what caught our attention.

By SHANNON CAULFIELD

The Medford Sun

Here’s a look at some of the big stories in Medford from 2012.

January

January saw a new council take office in town.

“Medford’s a great community,” Mayor James “Randy” Pace told The Sun in January. “I think a lot of people will recognize that the economy is negatively affecting everybody and everything.”

According to Pace, maintaining essential services in the community is part of the goal.

“There’s going to be an impact,” Pace said. “There’s a serious deficit.”

Pace said the deficit ranges from $5 million to $7 million.

Part of the goal in the beginning of the year was changing where money went.

Additionally, January set the tone for a more transparent township council.

“When somebody asks a question, they’re going to get an answer, and they’re going to get a whole answer,” Pace said.

Councilman Chuck Watson was appointed to the council as replacement for former Mayor Chris Myers, who resigned December 2011.

Christopher Norman was appointed as the township solicitor during a January township meeting.

“I grew up in Medford and it’s near and dear to my heart,” Norman said in January. “It feels good to come back.”

February

February brought a change to the school board election to November, along with the generalelections.

Medford Township’s proposed budget was presented by township manager Chris Schultz during one of the February committee meetings.

The new council was presented with the challenge of combatting a difficult financial situation.

Schultz proposed $18,377,628 in comparison to 2011’s budget of $21,870,040.

Trash, brush and leaf pickup, recreation programs were slated for elimination to save money.

Additionally, four police officers were laid off and a retired lieutenant’s position was not replaced.

“The township’s financial position has been compounded over the last few years,” Schultz said. “The budget gap is so large that there’s simply not enough revenue to support continuing the service levels that Medford has enjoyed over a period of time.”

Pace said the township will not be not prohibiting trash from being picked up within the township, but that it most likely would not offer the service any longer.

Pace also said he doesn’t think the safety of the town will drop because of the layoff of four police officers.

“The community of Medford is a good community, and it has been for a very long time,” Pace said.

March

Superintendent of schools Joseph Del Rossi took a leave of absence beginning in March.

The school official was arrested under suspicion of drunk driving in Evesham Township.

According to Evesham police Sgt. Joseph Friel, Del Rossi’s Jeep turned over on Sunday, Feb. 26 around 10:30 p.m.

Del Rossi wasn’t injured in the single-vehicle accident. Del Rossi was driving a Jeep owned by the school district, he said. Friel would not divulge Del Rossi’s blood-alcohol level.

He said Del Rossi told police he swerved to avoid a deer on Sagemore Drive.

Good news was delivered to the township following an announcement from the Medford Township School District at a March 26 public hearing for the 2012–13 school year budget.

Taxes would not be raised.

The school district makes up 50 percent of the Medford tax bill.

The total budget was announced for the year as $47,990,601.

“We are a minimally funded by the state and federal school district,” said the now former assistant superintendent for finance and support services Bryan McGair.

April

At the beginning of April, a ballot choice increasing property taxes or completely eliminating municipal trash collection was considered.

After it was approved, average homeowner property taxes were increased by $325.

“I’m very pleased that the residents of Medford had the opportunity to express their opinion at the polls,” Pace said.

May

As November elections began to approach, two council seats were up for voters to fill. In May, Nancy and George Youngkin announced their interest in filling the available positions in council.

“Medford is really ready for the change that they asked for last election,” Nancy said. “I think it’s time that we get more representation across the board.”

The Medford school board hired an attorney to assist with teacher contract negotiations.

Contract negotiations originally began in January 2011.

The non-profit organization, Medford Celebrates Inc. and Medford Township teamed up to make the July 4 celebration come to fruition.

Medford Celebrates was able to raise enough money to cover the costs. Following budget cuts, the township was no longer able to support the July 4th celebration.

In May, a new superintendent of schools was announced for Lenape Regional High School District.

Dr. Carol L. Birnbohm was named the new superintendent of schools, effective July 1. Former superintendent, Emily Capella’s retirement was effective on June 30.

Birnbohm, who previously served as assistant superintendent, is a graduate of Cherokee High School, located in Marlton.

June

The municipal budget was finally approved two months following the approval of the referendum, passed in mid-April.

The vote adopted higher taxes, opposed to eliminating municipal services.

The Medford School District began to change its math program over to enVisionMath by Pearson to replace Everyday Math.

Thomas Olson, administrative director of programming and planning, told The Sun in June he believes that enVisionMath better matches the needs of the district.

The high-proficiency of students was proven in report cards for the Lenape Regional High School District.

Based upon the 2010–2011 school year, the report cards exhibited proficiency in student testing, data concerning classroom environments, the finances of the district and details on the staff and students.

The graduation rate at Shawnee High School was 98.10 percent, which was above the Lenape Regional High School District average of 96.89 percent, the highest rate in Burlington County according to assistant superintendent Carol L. Birnbohm.

Students who took the SAT performed at a higher level than in previous years, and higher than the state average.

In math, the average score was 551 compared to the state score of 517. Students scored an average of 543 on the verbal section, the state averaged at 493. Students scored an average of 533, while the state average was only 496 on the essay portion of the standardized exam.

The average Lenape District total score was 1566. Additionally, the HSPA exam scores have gone up. Approximately 96.9 percent of the total district population was either proficient or advanced in the field of language arts, while 88.3 percent scored similarly in math.