Birnbohm recognizes crisis performance of county, district employees

Staff efforts during pandemic bring kudos from emotional superintendent

Staff, employees and students of the Lenape Regional High School District have been  recognized by the superintendent as the coronavirus pandemic continues to require virtual education.

Superintendent Carol Birnbohm recognized the Burlington County Health Department’s coordination with county superintendents and the state Department of Education to order schools closed. 

“I’ve been well informed leading up to a potential close,” Birnbohm shared. “We were prepared for the closure and made decisions every step of the way, moving up to the close with the guidance of the Burlington County Health Department.”

Tempering her emotions, the superintendent thanked district administrators and central office staff for relaying information to students, teachers and the public — describing the district as “prepared.”

“That is the word I would say for our district,” Birnbohm said. “That is because of the incredible people that work in our school district.”

Birnbohm also noted that all teachers separated by department to collaborate on how virtual instruction should proceed. Students were kept in the loop, she added, about possible closures during the week of March 13. Teachers reminded students to gather everything from their lockers to take home as a closure date was considered.

“Please give any senior a safe, virtual hug because this is not the senior year they signed up for,” Birnbohm mentioned. “Be very empathetic for our seniors. Be caring for them and send them extra love.”

As a slide show about home instruction was shown on a large screen – and with the board  spread out safely – Birnbohm reminded members that students will be more prepared for future careers as they experience remote learning. 

A cancellation of Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT) appeared moot for those applying to colleges as the tests will not “measure the resiliency these kids are going to get from this,” Birnbohm insisted.

Colleges  will gain first-year students who have prior knowledge on adapting to emergency situations like the pandemic, she added. 

“I wanted to put some things out there, and I could go on and on about how incredible our teachers, counselors, nurses, bus drivers delivering meals, custodians, secretaries — everybody in our organization has really gone above and beyond to find some sense of normalcy in a situation that nobody has ever experienced,” Birnbohm concluded.

In unrelated news, the board approved sending the district’s proposed 2020-2021 budget to the county superintendent for review. The $155,389,085 budget calls for a net increase of 2 percent to the tax levy, given a $1,155,936 reduction in state funding. Debts have decreased by $116,413.

In a press release submitted shortly after the board’s approval, it was stated the budget does not require reductions in student programs or staff for the next school year.

“This is due to operational reductions and cost-saving measures proposed by the administration, and subject to approval by the Executive County Superintendent,” the release read. 

Regional school district tax impact for the eight sending districts is as follows:

  • Property owners in Evesham Township could see a 0.95-cent tax rate increase. For a home at an assessed average value of $271,600, that means a $17.80 annual increase. 
  • Property owners in Medford Township could see a 1.17-cent tax rate increase. For a home at an assessed average value of $326,393, taxpayers could see a $37.43 annual increase. 
  • Property owners in the Medford Lakes Borough could see a 1.05-cent tax rate decrease. For a home at an assessed average value of $287,180, that would be a $25.35 annual decrease. 
  • Property owners in Mount Laurel Township could see a 1.04-cent tax rate increase. For a home at an assessed average value of $237,500, that means a $23.89 annual increase. 
  • Property owners in Shamong Township could see a 0.84-cent tax rate decrease. For a home at an assessed average value of $308,812, that amounts to a $23.36 annual decrease. 
  • Property owners in Southampton Township could see a 3.02-cent tax rate increase. For a home at an assessed average value of $192,286, that will mean a $58.63 annual increase. 
  • Property owners in Tabernacle Township could see a 3.76-cent tax rate increase. For a home at an assessed average value of $265,357, that would be a $104.62 annual increase. 
  • Property owners in Woodland Township could see a 3.81-cent tax rate decrease. For a home at an assessed average value of $256,400, that means taxpayers could see a $101.33 annual decrease. 

Public hearing on the budget and the board of education is April 29, 7:30 p.m., at 93 Willow Grove Road in Shamong.

Editor’s note: Municipalities are highlighted in bold to provide easier access to readers who want to know a community-specific tax impact.