Shamong district adopts new budget with an increase in taxes

Rising costs in compensation, out-of-district placements result in rate hike.

The Shamong Township School District has adopted a budget for the coming year that calls for an increase in local school taxes.

The board of education adopted the $15,034,289 budget during its April 30 virtual meeting, in which there were no comments during the public hearing portion of the session.

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Property owners in Shamong Township with a home assessed average valuation of $308,812 will see an annual increase of $93.19 to the local school district taxes, the result of a 2 percent  rate increase.

“The biggest drivers of our budget are salaries, health benefits and special education. It is true for most districts also,” explained Laura Archer, the school’s business administrator.

A decline in enrollment and restructuring in New Jersey resulted in a $266,467 loss of state funds. Larger reductions are likely for the next two school years following 2020-2021. Archer estimated $300,000 will be lost, but she cautioned the number can change.

With 347 students expected to be enrolled at Indian Mills School next year, compared with 359 in the current year, average class size is expected to increase by one student.

“The district is (also) addressing the decrease in enrollment by reducing the staff by one at the elementary school level,” Superintendent Christine Vespe said in a statement to The Sun.

Revenues and a surplus were used to balance the budget; the surplus accounts for $790,000, but Archer warned district officials and the board that it needs to be replenished for future use.

“By going into the Lenape (Region) Consortium for the banking, the interest we’ve been able to generate we are actually able to budget for and help increase our revenue,” Archer noted. Interest accounts for a 140.71 percent increase in miscellaneous local revenue.

Extraordinary aid was awarded to the district for out-of-district placement increases and in-house services. Aid is provided to districts who apply for it to offset payments over $55,000.  Shamong had a portion of the money returned, including funds for services.

Budget debts have significantly decreased, by $109,835; $169,663 remains for years to follow.

Shared services helped offset and balance the budget, as contracts are in place with the Woodland Township School District for Archer to serve as a business administrator for both districts. YMCA of the Pines coordinates the extended school year. Lenape Regional, Medford and Tabernacle school districts run some bus routes in Shamong, among other areas.

A copy of the budget is available by visiting ShamongSchools.org.

“Developing a budget that continues to provide the academic programs and extracurricular offerings that our district is accustomed to is challenging during these years of funding reductions,” Vespe said in her statement.

“The (2020-2021) budget will allow us to continue the programs we have in place, but does not allow for new programs to be added.”

Other options for savings had been scrutinized by Vespe and Archer as the two prepare the district for anticipated state funding reductions of $311,795 and $291,991 for the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.

“The budget that has been approved is fiscally responsible and I am grateful for the cooperative work of our administrative team and board of education,” Vespe shared in her statement.

Instructions for accessing the next meeting are available on the district’s website. Meetings are tentative and anticipated to change due to the pandemic.

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