Eastern Regional passes 2019-2020 budget

While the local tax levy is a decrease from the previous year, not all three sending districts will see a decrease in taxes.

The Eastern Regional Board of Education unanimously passed its 2019-2020 budget Wednesday, May 1 at the board of education offices.

The budget is $38,855,366 for the upcoming school year, which includes $38,380,182 of general funds, $475,184 of special revenue funds and no debt service funds. The local tax levy is $26,352,672, which is a decrease of $118,770 from the previous year.

According to a presentation by Business Administrator and Board Secretary Diana Schiraldi, homeowners of both Voorhees Township and Gibbsboro are expected to see a decrease in Eastern Regional taxes, while Berlin Borough’s taxes will increase.

Taxes per municipality are decided by a state-driven formula, which accounts for student enrollment and equalized property value. Based on this year’s numbers, Voorhees Township will contribute approximately 79.2 percent of Eastern’s taxes, while Berlin will be responsible for 16.6 percent and Gibbsboro will pay approximately 4 percent.

For the yearly impact, Voorhees Township residents with the average assessed property value of $258,959 can expect a decrease of approximately $16. Berlin Borough residents with the average assessed property value of $233,600 will see an increase of approximately $59.

“The reason for Berlin Borough going up is that their student enrollment is going up and they’ve actually gone down in both Gibbsboro and slightly in Voorhees Township,” said Schiraldi. “So that affects that municipal percent share.”

After Gibbsboro’s reassessment, homeowners can expect a decrease of approximately $134, according to Schiraldi. Contributing to the dramatic decrease for Gibbsboro residents is the reduction in Gibbsboro’s municipal percent share and the reduction in the overall tax levy compared to the previous year.

The tax levy increase included in the budget represents a 3.1 percent increase over the prior year, reaching 3 percent for the second time in seven years. The budget includes the use of $288,748 in banked cap, which is requested to partially offset a reduction in state aid.

The district is receiving $9,374,650 in state aid for the 2019–2020 school budget. This is a decrease of $346,658 over the original budgeted amount in the 2018–19 school year. State aid to the district has decreased due to declining enrollment over the past 10 years, according to the presentation.

The budget also encompasses the costs of capital outlay projects, which were also passed through resolutions at the meeting. Next year’s capital projects include phase two of the network infrastructure upgrade and safety renovations to the athletic field grandstands.

In addition to capital projects in the budget, the district has awarded a contract for a partial roof renovation to be completed over the summer.

Superintendent Harold Melleby stated during the presentation that the budget allows for the continuation of all current programs at Eastern.

“I’m happy to report that this budget reflects that we are able to maintain all of our current instructional and athletic programs … all of our present student activities and all of our current staffing levels,” said Melleby.

Melleby also said that while the sports activity fee will be in place, no additional fees are expected to be enacted, such as for parking or extracurricular activities.

With regard to new positions, Melleby said there will be certain changes with positions at Eastern. There will be the reduction of one full-time staff position after the teacher retires at the end of the school year, with no need to post for a new hire due to declining student numbers in recent years. Meanwhile, the part-time athletic training position will be changed to a full-time position, allowing for two full-time athletic trainers at Eastern.

The next meeting for the board is Wednesday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m., with a special reception at 7 p.m. for retirees.