Moorestown taxpayers will experience a 1.61 percent tax increase based on the tentative budget approved Tuesday by the board of education.
The $67.6 million budget ($61.5 million in the general fund; $5 million in debt service) includes a $1.07 million increase in the general fund tax levy—which is right at the 2 percent cap—and a $133,913 (or 2.83 percent) decrease in the debt service levy.
Assuming the budget doesn't change, a homeowner assessed at the township average ($445,716) would see their taxes go up $107.97.
The budget passed 7-1 Tuesday night, with Board Member Brandon Pugh providing the only "no" vote.
Pugh said it was no secret he was opposed to any kind of tax increase from the start.
"I said I would entertain a tax increase only if there was nowhere else we could generate alternative revenue, and there was nowhere else we could cut programs without jeopardizing the quality of the education we offer," he said. "I'm not necessarily convinced even one of those conditions has been met."
Pugh said the district's approach to trimming the budget—asking department heads to voluntarily offer cuts—was flawed.
"If you are in charge of something, you're certainly not going to voluntarily offer all of your cards and put them on the table," he said. "If I was a principal, I'm not going to put all the areas that could be cut on the table."
He also said the district needs to be more aggressive in seeking alternative sources of revenue, particularly advertising.
"Rather than letting people approach us, we need to go to them," Pugh said, referencing the district's contract with Advantage3.
The budget now has to be approved by the county superintendent before it can be formally adopted by the board at a public hearing on March 27. Between now and then, the board can also make its own edits, Board President Don Mishler said.
The current version of the budget does not include outsourcing the district's paraprofessionals, a persistent rumor that came to a head at last week's board meeting when a string of teachers and parents praised the work of the paras and pleaded with the board not to outsource them.
However, Mishler said the budget and finance committee would continue to examine the issue between now and the final adoption of the budget, as well as projected revenue from the district's brand new extended day kindergarten program.
"It is a pilot program, and that gives us some concern," he said. "Any dollar amount is something we're going to take a look at."
A public forum on the budget will be held at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday, March 12, at William Allen Middle School.
Pugh urged residents to attend the meeting and voice their opinions, because the budget should reflect the will of the people.
"It ultimately depends on what the people want," he said.
To see the full budget breakdown, click on the PDF attached to this story.