Regional school taxes to increase for Medford residents

After having its temporary budget approved by the state Department of Education, the Lenape Regional High School District Board of Education shared its final edition at last week’s public hearing.
Medford Township residents will see an increase in their regional school tax bill for the 2016–17 year.
The tax levy will increase by 1.89 cents, resulting in an increase in regional school taxes of $59.67 on a home assessed at the township average of $327,600.
The total budget is $156.6 million, an increase of $2.6 million from last year. Most of the budget is funded with taxpayer money, with $116.1 million expected to come from taxpayers in the district’s eight sending municipalities.
Board member David Stow emphasized the lack of state aid coming in to help take the burden off the taxpayers.
“Our state aid should not be lower than it was in 2009,” he said.
Over the past 20 years, state support of the LRHSD has decreased from nearly 40 percent of the budget in 1994–95 to just 19.7 percent of the 2016–2017 budget.
“We’re grateful for the small increase in state funding for our district, but as expenses increase, it remains a challenge to meet the educational needs of all of our students within a manageable budget,” Superintendent Carol Birnbohm said.
State aid increased by $67,820 this year, though this number won’t cover even half of the cost the district will be spending to bring in the two new special education staff positions.
The new special education teacher and support staff member are required by incoming ninth-grade students’ Individual Education Plans.
LRHSD graduation rates are among the highest in the state at 95.5 percent for the class of 2015, with 92.5 percent of graduates continuing their education in more than 286 four-year and two-year colleges and universities.
The district gives students the opportunity to get a head start on their college education by offering the College Acceleration Program, with 1,245 students participating in 2015–16 and earning college credits through Rowan College at Burlington County.
“Our students will earn nearly 8,500 college credits this year alone,” Birnbohm said.
“This program, offered at no additional cost to the district or taxpayers, gives students a jump on continuing education and, equally important, helps offset college costs for students and their families.”
Other LRHSD cost-saving initiatives range from shared services agreements with the sending districts to per pupil administrative costs that are significantly lower than other regional districts. This school year, the average per student administrative cost of $1,506 is $476 below the state-mandated regional limit of $1,982 per student.
The LRHSD also benefits from fundraising efforts and donations from a range of community and alumni groups.
In addition, the district receives corporate and foundation grant funding, which recently included grants from Lockheed Martin in the amount of $31,200 for two school years. The grants are funding the incorporation of a comprehensive STEM program, Project Lead the Way, into the current course of study.
“This year, individual and community group donations reached a total of $2.55 million contributed to the district since the 2007–2008 school year,” Birnbohm said.
“Our parents, alumni and community members are active in the district and integral to our students’ success. Their financial support complements their involvement, making it possible for us to provide our students and the community with improved athletic facilities, new equipment and life-changing experiences.”
Budget information, including tax impacts for each sending district, is posted on the Lenape Regional High School District website,
For more information, contact Business Administrator James Hager at (609) 268–2000 ext. 5536 or District officials will hold their next Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, May 11 at the administration building in Shamong at 7:30 p.m.