School board adopts preliminary budget

The Cherry Hill Board of Education unanimously voted to approve the preliminary budget for the 2013–2014 school year at the Tuesday, March 5 meeting.

The vote came less than a week after state aid numbers were released following Gov. Christie’s address. The school district received essentially flat aid, according to Business Administrator Jim Devereaux.

With the township revaluation not finalized, a tax levy increase percentage is not yet available as of publication. Through the revaluation, property values have significantly increased.

The average assessed home in Cherry Hill was $140,000 prior to the revaluation. Now, the average home is $223,500.

The estimated school tax rate is $2.033 per $100 of assessed value, which equates to $4,544 dollars in the tax bill, Devereaux said.

That is a decrease from last year’s $4,766 figure for the average homeowner.

Dependent on the revaluation, some homeowners may see an increase or decrease in their overall tax bill, he said.

The budget total for the year is $173,991,752, which is an increase of 1.6 percent over last year.

Numbers for the budget are managed throughout the year with weekly projections, Devereaux said.

Resident Jeff Podowitz stood to voice the opinion that $2.033 is high for school taxes.

“We’re sky high,” he said, explaining that taxpayers of Cherry Hill and students are being hurt by not enough funds in the local fair share from the state.

“We get what we get from the state,” board member Steve Robbins said. “We control what the school budget is.”

“That’s it.”

With an administration committed to finding efficiencies in the budget process, shortfalls have been closed.

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job,” he said.

Regular instruction and special education take up the bulk of the proposed budget, with costs of $51,609,330 and $18,845,973 respectively, according to a district document.

Benefits are $33,853,500, which is “modest” in this day and age, Devereaux said.

Charter school funds are down from $670,749 to $135,393 due to last year’s Regis Academy dispute.

While funds to facilities improvements are down slightly, no needed repair has ever been ignored. Instead, money has been transferred when needed, Devereaux said.

Superintendent Dr. Maureen Reusche will host the budget presentation and final adoption on Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m. in the Malberg Administration Building.

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