Voorhees Township Public Schools passes 2018–2019 budget

Residents with an average assessed home in Voorhees will see close to a $60 annual increase in taxes.

At its latest meeting, the Voorhees Township Public Schools Board of Education approved the district’s tentative budget for the 2018–2019 school year.

The budget has increased 0.75 percent with a general fund increase of 1.6 percent. The total budget stands at $55,420,753 with an operating budget of $53,502,497. The tax levy is $46,570,527. Grants and entitlements amount to $847,256. Debt service amounts to $1,071,000.

The budget projects an annual increase of $59.40, or $4.95 per month, for the average township house assessed at $258,801.

Some 62.5 percent of the budget will go toward regular and special education, instruction and school services, including salaries and supplies.

Next school year, the district will be adding a full-time guidance counselor. Currently, this position is split between Kresson and E.T. Hamilton elementary schools. Each of the five schools throughout the district will now have a full-time guidance counselor.

Frank T. DeBerardinis, assistant superintendent for business and board secretary, said having a full-time counselor in each school was a priority for the district going into next year.

“It’s concern for the well-being of our students,” he said. “There’s many children that are facing concerns that we can help them with and help to address. We see a lot of need for it in our students.”

With recent school tragedies across the country, he said it was especially important for the district to not gloss over young students’ emotional and mental health.

“We feel we need to provide more services for our children,” he said.

The district will also be hiring two special education teachers and an ESL, or English as a Second Language, instructor.

Funds are being added into the STEM program, as well.

“We’re continuing to invest in those programs to offer a well-rounded education for the children,” DeBerardinis said.

Along with providing additional services, the district will maintain all services, including its heightened police presence, as every school in the district is served by a fully-armed Voorhees Township Police Department officer.

“We invest heavily in security,” DeBerardinis said. “We see it as an investment. Our relationship with our police department is a model for all communities.”

Another 22.8 percent will go toward employee benefits, 9.3 percent will go toward operation and maintenance, and 4.8 percent will go toward insurance, administration and technology.

Finally, 0.6 percent will be dedicated to capital outlay, including equipment.

These capital projects include installing 14 new HVAC systems in three schools this summer, including Osage, Hamilton and Voorhees Middle School.

Technology investments will be particularly designated for the district’s online security.

Also in the tentative budget, a budget maximum of $33,550 was established for the dissemination of public information, as well as a maximum of $50,500 for auditing services and $70,000 for legal services.

The dissemination of information includes the maintaining and updating of the district’s website and corresponding app, which was launched a few months ago.

“The new app provides communication right to phones,” DeBerardinis said.

The district will receive $5,792, 251 in state aid for the 2018–2019 school year. This is a 4.1 percent, or $229,317, increase over last year’s $5,562,934.

“We appreciate any additional funds we receive,” DeBerardinis said.