Cherry Hill Board of Education approves preliminary 2017–18 school budget with tax increase

According to the preliminary budget, Cherry Hill residents with an average assessed home of $224,200 would pay $142.30 more in school taxes this year. The budget will go before the board for a public hearing and adoption later in the spring.

Cherry Hill residents could be paying more on their school tax bill in 2017 after the Cherry Hill Board of Education adopted its 2017–18 preliminary budget last Monday night.

The 2017–18 preliminary budget includes a 2.93 percent increase in taxes. Residents with an average assessed home of $224,200 would see an increase of $142.30 in school taxes. The budget still needs to be adopted following a public hearing later this spring.

The district used two exceptions to raise the tax levy above New Jersey’s 2 percent cap. The district is using an adjustment for the increase in health-care costs. School districts can raise the tax levy above the 2 percent cap when health-care costs are projected to increase more than 2 percent.

The district is also planning to use banked cap from the 2015–16 school year. In years when the school district does not increase taxes up to the 2 percent cap, it is permitted to “bank” the difference between the levy increase and the 2 percent cap to use in a budget over the next three years. The district already used $251,734 of banked cap from 2015–16 in last year’s budget.

“We have $294,000 left from the 2015–16 school year that must be used before 2018–19 school year,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Lynn Shugars said. “We’re going to use that this year.”

Shugars added a public vote would not be needed on this year’s budget since the health-care adjustment and banked cap are being used.

The preliminary budget includes no program or personnel cuts despite the district having no increase in state aid from last year. The district will receive just $13.2 million in state aid for the 2017–18 school year. This represents about 7 percent of the district’s total proposed general fund budget of $194.1 million.

“We saw no increases this year,” Shugars said. “I guess we should be thankful we didn’t get less, but certainly we would have liked to see some increases.”

The district was able to avoid a large increase in the overall budget, as it will be paying considerably less money toward lease purchases next school year.

“We were able to pay off some of the lease purchases early,” Shugars said.

This will partially offset the 2.7 percent increase in salaries and 7.1 percent increase in benefits for next year.

The district plans to utilize $2.5 million in capital reserve funds in 2017–18, approximately the same amount of capital reserve money utilized as last year. The proposed budget includes using the money for more than a dozen projects, including a crawl space repair project at Barton Elementary, exterior door replacement at multiple schools, roof replacement and repairs at multiple schools, electrical and generator upgrades at Knight and Mann elementaries and Cherry Hill High School East, and an HVAC replacement and upgrade at Cherry Hill East and Kilmer Elementary.

The district’s preliminary budget is now being sent to the Camden County Superintendent’s office for approval before coming back to the board of education for an adoption vote. The school district is tentatively planning to hold its public hearing and adoption vote on the 2017–18 school budget on Tuesday, May 2.