Lenape Regional district adopts budget with varying degrees of tax impact

Board of education and superintendent cite reductions in state funding

The American and Defy the Issue flags fly at half-staff at the Lenape Regional High School District Administration Building in Shamong on April 14 following an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy for all flags on publicly-owned properly to fly in such a manner, honoring the 6,000-plus New Jersey lives lost due to the novel coronavirus. As of deadline, at least 10 people in the Lenape Region have lost their lives due to the virus (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

Facing reductions in state funding, the Lenape Regional High School District and  Superintendent Carol Birnbohm held a virtual meeting April 29 to adopt a 2020-2021 school year budget that has varying tax impacts.

The unanimous decision by the board followed a presentation by member David Stow, who represents Medford Township, on the district’s efforts to balance the budget despite a $1,155,936 reduction in state funding. He calculated the state has reduced funding by $3,078,692 since implementation of the 2018 S2 legislation to right-size districts that have been overfunded and those that were severely underfunded.

- Advertisement -

“In the future, we have an additional reduction of $1.4, $1.7, a little over $1 million and $337,000,” Stow said. “By the time this is all done, the Lenape Regional High School District will have lost $7.7 million of state funding.

“The deficit comes from their budget and is added to yours.”

In a statement to The Sun, Birnbohm said the COVID-19 pandemic has had no impact on the district’s fiscal year 2021 budget. But there are concerns about future cuts that may result from the continued economic impact of the pandemic.

“We are concerned our school district will be forced to make even more cuts in the future due to the changing economic conditions and uncertainty in the state’s ability to raise revenue in the wake of the pandemic,” the superintendent shared.

The district’s overall levy will increase to the 2 percent cap. Regional school tax impacts for each of the sending municipalities are as follows:

  • Property owners in Evesham Township with a home average assessed valuation of $271,600 will see a $17.80 annual increase in regional school taxes.
  • Property owners in Medford Township with a home average assessed valuation of $326,393 will see an annual increase of $37.43.
  • Property owners in Medford Lakes Borough with a home average assessed valuation of $287,180 will see an annual decrease of $25.35.
  • Property owners in Mt. Laurel Township with a home average assessed valuation of $237,500 will see a $23.89 annual increase.
  • Property owners in Shamong Township with a home average assessed valuation of $308,812 will see a $23.36 annual decrease.
  • Property owners in Southampton Township with a home average assessed valuation of $192,286 will see an annual increase of $58.63.
  • Property owners in Tabernacle Township with a home average assessed valuation of $265,357 will see an annual increase of $104.62.
  • Property owners in Woodland Township with a home average assessed valuation of $256,400 will see a $101.33 annual decrease.

Tax rates can be accessed by visiting LRHSD.org.

Evan Scott of Evesham Township spoke during the meeting’s public hearing and commended  the district and board of education for advocacy efforts in the Support Our Students (SOS) coalition. He encouraged the public to pressure the state for the calculations used to figure out local fair share.

“The SOS coalition has sent an OPRA request to the (state) Department of Education to get the hidden math behind some of the multipliers used in the local fair share, which goes into the adequacy formula,” Birnbohm replied.

“We have yet to get that formula from the state as we continue to advocate for that.”

Cuts were made to appropriations, saving the district $2.6 million. Some of the reductions include further consolidations at Cherokee North and South and Lenape North and South high schools; elimination of positions vacated due to retirements or transfers, if possible; and transportation.

“We have eliminated the courtesy bus for routes within 2.5 miles of our schools,” Stow stated. “Consolidating neighborhood stops, eliminating all of our late runs and reducing pay in dispatch. Shifting the burden of some of our crossing guards from the district to the communities we serve through a cooperative agreement.”

No major capital improvement projects are planned in the budget.

Special education enrollment increases by 77 students, requiring increases in two nurse-paraprofessionals for two students, 18 part-time paraprofessionals and transfer of at least three teachers from general education to special education, while retaining their subjects of speciality. Dual-certifications have assisted the district in educating both special ed and regular students.

Decreases in appropriations resulted in increases in class size and parking fees ($25 to $50 per semester).

Stow emphasized the district has continued to “pinch every penny” to save costs and to remain committed to the care of facilities and schools. Families, organizations and businesses have also donated $785,405 as of March 18.

“Accepting financial support from our community has helped make it possible for us to bridge the gap to improve athletic facilities, purchase new equipment and support innovative programs to benefit our students,” Birnbohm in a press release.

The board was asked about average salaries of principals and assistant principals for the 2020-2021 school year. Birnbohm reiterated that the district spends 25 percent below the regional limit of administrative costs in comparison to other “like” regional districts.

Salaries for assistant principal and principal positions are available on the state’s Public Employees Relation Commission website for the district’s 2017-2021 contracts with the employees. Salaries are listed in step levels.

The board’s May 13 meeting is expected to be held remotely. Details are available at LRHSD.org.

“Our staff and students are regional, state and national award winners and champions,” Birnbohm said in the press release. “They’ve won awards for special education programs, marching band, business, fine arts, robotics, community service and JROTC, not to mention athletics.”

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -

Latest