Cherry Hill residents will see a decrease under the district’s 2019-2020 budget. The Cherry Hill Board of Education passed its budget at its most recent meeting, which included a $4.86 annual tax decrease for the average assessed home of $224,506.
The total budget is $215.9 million with approximately $176.6 million to be raised through taxation. Previously, the average Cherry Hill resident paid $75 annually toward the district’s debt service, but with the district’s most recent bond referendum having failed, the district is operating debt-free and residents are not paying taxes toward debt service under the 2019-2020 budget.
Superintendent Joseph Meloche commended the district on making staff a priority in this year’s budget. He said in the last year, they have added five campus police force officers, put counselors in every one of the district’s schools and are adding 15 new staff members under the 2019-2020 budget.
“The commitment that the district has made to the staff in the district is incredible,” Meloche said. “The most important resource that we have is truly the human resource.”
While the budget was adopted with little discussion, a motion to use $9.9 million in capital reserve funds was the topic of much debate. Board member David Rossi proposed amending the motion to remove the Cherry Hill High School East masonry wall repairs and East auditorium wall repairs in favor of allocating that money toward security needs, including the installation of swipe cards and 3M window films at the schools that have not received security upgrades. He also suggested using the remaining money to comply with any outstanding ADA compliance issues.
Board member Ruth Schultz said when the bond referendum failed, the district was forced to look at where capital reserve funds should go. She said while she is fully in support of added security measures, projects in the most serious state of need should be secured now, and the wall repairs shouldn’t be deferred any longer.
“Our buildings simply cannot afford it,” Schultz.
Fellow board member Carol Matlack echoed the sentiment. She said while the repairs may not be an emergency today, they do constitute safety issues that they can’t be ignored.
Matlack said the district’s security is more than physical elements, and that the district’s staff are one of their greatest resources in keeping students safe. She said that’s not to say the district doesn’t need physical security measures, but it has to prioritize how to use available funds.
“We all have priorities,” Matlack said. “We don’t have the money to do all of them. “
Ultimately, the amendment was shot down in 5 to 3 vote with Laurie Neary, Sally Tong and Rossi voting to reallocate the funds and the remaining members voting against the amendment.
The next meeting of the Cherry Hill Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, May 28 at 7 p.m. in the Malberg Administration Building.