The preliminary budget includes a $96.57 school tax increase for the average assessed home.
Moorestown residents could be in for another year of tax increases. The 2019–2020 tentative budget passed at the most recent Moorestown Board of Education meeting has the district growing its budget to the 2 percent allowable tax cap. The preliminary budget includes a $96.57 school tax increase for the average assessed home valued at $454,032.
The board unanimously passed the preliminary budget for submission to the executive county superintendent of schools for approval last Tuesday night. The total budget is $74,310,577, with approximately $64,194,749 to be raised through taxation.
“The budget that we have moved forward […] it, unfortunately, does not include all the things we want to do and even some of the things we think that we should do,” said Superintendent Scott McCartney.
The district faced a new challenge this year with budget requests exceeding allowable growth by $4,204,709. With the increase in cost for existing salaries and benefits eating up the bulk of the district’s allowable growth, the district took a look at where it could reduce costs and was able to bring the difference down to about $2 million before tackling the budget at an early March budget workshop.
Reductions included cutting new positions and around 12 existing ones. The district also removed a planned deposit to the capital reserve, cut costs under the technology department through a leasing program and made a variety of other adjustments.
“I think the best decisions that could be made in today’s time and circumstances have been made by stakeholders,” McCartney said.
As proposed on Tuesday night, salaries account for $45,221,460 of the total budget and benefits account for $14,687,778 of the budget. The district expects $10,115,828, in anticipated revenues and $3,772,135 in state aid.
Board President Sandra Alberti said she was surprised that health benefits only rose 2 percent as compared to the 6.5 percent the district was anticipating. She said this made way for an additional $650,000 in savings the district had not anticipated and helped it immensely during the difficult budget process.
Alberti said going to the 2 percent cap was not an easy decision and involved some tough conversations among board members.
“This isn’t our idealized budget,” Alberti said. “This represents a lot of sacrifices and a lot of tough work.”
McCartney said the district has also been engaged in higher level conversations about the state of the budget process.
“We talked to our local legislators, our Assembly folks, to say we are in a position as many schools where we are forced to look at sometimes doing less because we have less. We made all the easy decisions a long time ago,” McCartney said.
The public hearing on the budget is scheduled to take place in a special meeting on Wednesday, May 1. The budget will be up for final approval at that time. The next meeting of the Moorestown Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, April 16, at 7 p.m. at William Allen Middle School.