School taxes to increase for Cherry Hill residents in 2015

Cherry Hill residents will be paying more on their school tax bill in 2015.

The Cherry Hill Board of Education adopted its 2015–16 school budget at last week’s meeting. Residents with an average assessed home of $223,500 will see an $85.77 increase in their taxes this year. This is an increase of 1.85 percent from 2014.

James Devereaux, assistant superintendent for business for Cherry Hill Public Schools, said the district was able to save taxpayers $1.2 million through a bond refinancing in the fall. This allowed the district to keep the tax increase below 2 percent even when the district had to make a health-care adjustment increase of $545,000.

The total budget for 2015–16 is $182.68 million, a 2.51 percent increase over last year. Despite the increase, Devereaux noted the budget has increased just 6.85 percent since the 2008–09 school year.

The district did not receive any additional help in state aid, which remained flat at $12.95 million.

“That’s less than the $16 million that we receive in 2008 and 2009, but more than the $7.9 million we received in 2010 and 2011,” Devereaux said.

The district is carrying over $6.17 million from the 2014–15 budget to balance the 2015–16 budget. This is the same amount of money the district carried over from 2013–14.

The district is using more capital reserve money next year to help balance the budget. About $1.98 million of capital reserve is being used, an increase of about $900,000 from 2014–15.

“We’re leaving a little something on the table, just over $1 million,” Devereux said. “This will be used to help 16–17 budget, unless there’s a compelling need for it in the meantime.”

There will not be any changes to educational items or programs next year. The district is also adding four new teaching positions. Two are high school teacher positions, one is an English language learner position and the fourth is a student assistance counselor for the middle schools.

The district is using School Development Authority grants to fund approximately $2 million worth of capital improvements. Most of the projects are fire alarm and HVAC replacements at multiple school buildings. Most of the money for the projects will be coming from capital reserve.

“All but $24,000 of this $2 million will be offset by the use of capital reserve funds,” Devereaux said.

The district has three SDA grants remaining after 2015–16. These grants will be used for sewer replacement at Kingston Elementary School and a large storm water infiltration masonry wall project at Cherry Hill East.

The school district also plans to pay off both of its lease purchase agreements and a capital improvement bond no later than 2018–19. The lease purchase agreement payments make up half of the capital budget for the district.