Moorestown residents will see a school tax increase under the district’s 2019-2020 budget. The Moorestown Township Board of Education adopted its budget at a recent special meeting during which it also voted down an additional spending proposal that would finance the implementation of free, full-day kindergarten.
The district is 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 total budget is $74.3 million with approximately $64.2 million to be raised through taxation. The district is receiving an increase of $196,768 in state aid this year, bringing total state aid to around $3.7 million.
Business Administrator Joanne D’Angelo said salaries and benefits make up approximately 81 percent of the district’s expenses. Salaries account for $45,221,460 of the total budget and benefits account for $14,687,778 of the budget.
D’Angelo said they anticipate approximately $400,000 more in tuition this year. She said the district estimates its tuition revenue each year, and given that it brought in more than expected lat year, it can anticipate an increase in funding for the upcoming school year.
She said the cost of operations and extracurricular activities has also risen. D’Angelo said the bus driver shortage has increased the cost of transportation, while the implementation and expansion of the district’s unified sports teams have driven up the cost of extracurricular activities.
The board unanimously adopted the 2019-2020 budget before pausing to discuss an additional spending proposal that would ask the average Moorestown homeowner to pay an additional $92.90 on top of the $96.57 increase. The proposal called for an additional $828,540 in general funds for the implementation of free, full-day kindergarten.
To accommodate full-day kindergarten, the district was considering a nearly $21 million bond referendum that called for reconfiguring the current grade levels, moving sixth grade from the Upper Elementary School to William Allen Middle School and adding classrooms to WAMS to make space for more students at the kindergarten and preschool levels.
However, the district is facing an unprecedented problem. All three of the district’s elementary classes have already completely filled their kindergarten classes for the 2019-2020 school year.
Superintendent Scott McCartney said part of the short-term plan for implementing full-day kindergarten was to convert existing spaces – such as computer labs – into a classroom to allow for the expansion. He said given the current influx in enrollment, he’ll have to commandeer spaces as is, which won’t leave any space to expand the offerings.
Board president Sandra Alberti said when they first raised the issue of full-day kindergarten, their priority was improving quality of services. She said given the recent influx in enrollment, full-day kindergarten may put added strain on their ability to roll seamlessly roll out the program.
“It’s more about timing and the fact that we do have information now that we didn’t have in March,” Alberti said.
The board unanimously voted “no” to the additional spending proposal in a decision that closes the book on free, full-day kindergarten for the 2019-2020 school year. While the board voted “no” to full-day kindergarten, they are still actively discussing a potential referendum to address a variety of capital improvement projects. This will be the focus of a presentation and subsequent conversation at the board’s next meeting.
The next meeting of the Moorestown Township Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, May 21 at 7 p.m. in the media center of William Allen Middle School.