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Small Tax Increase Approved for '13-14 School Budget

The board voted 7-1 to approve the budget, and the sole dissenter says they can do more to bring taxes down.

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.

MotownFan March 07, 2013 at 01:55 PM
There I go again... Typing without coffee. Those cuts are NOT part of school budget.
Watcher March 07, 2013 at 01:56 PM
If typos on blog sites were crimes, we'd all be in jail! Anytime someone points out typos on nameless blog sites mean they have nothing useful to interject.
MHS alumnus March 07, 2013 at 01:56 PM
I think you should be more worried about getting answers from the others than bp
Watcher March 07, 2013 at 02:00 PM
MHS alumnus, why they voted to move forward. Mr. Pugh said he wanted to make cuts. It's up to him to show us where they would come from. If you can't provide any facts, you are wasting everyone's time
MotownFan March 07, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Why??? 7-1??? I'm betting they did their homework. Don't forget they are tax payers too. Funny that everyone in this town wants..no demands..an Ivy League prep school education at Walmart prices....?? Then why are you not all sending your kids to BCC? It's cheap & completely sufficient .
MotownFan March 07, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Btw... I'd love to see corporate sponsorship. Especially in the athletics. Why not get a bank to turf the field or name the auditorium? Banners in the outfield? Why not? Ever been to Haddonfield gym? They have banners inside in their gym.
Tom March 07, 2013 at 02:10 PM
Has anyone bothered to review the PDF Mr. Scott provided? The majority of the increase is from salaries. Is that a surprise to anyone when the employees are unionized? The township summary showed the same thing. Unless any of the elected officials is going to do something about cutting salaries or proposing alternative cuts like they campaigned on, what are we going to do? Is a recall election a possibility?
Watcher March 07, 2013 at 02:20 PM
I have an idea. Why doesn't everyone supply Rob Scott with their suggestions on what to cut and he can run it by Mr. Pugh and Mr. Mishler for comment. We can then avoid 200 comments about nothing
Lauren Burgoon March 07, 2013 at 02:22 PM
The board was up against a deadline of today to get the budget to the county superintendent (who can actually make or suggest cuts.)
Mary Nelson March 07, 2013 at 02:22 PM
To all of you defending Mr. Pugh... Do you really think a 20 year old, first term board member with almost no work experience has better perspective and judgment than ALL 7 of the other board members who voted yes on the budget? Do I need to remind you that this BOE has not increased the budget for the past two years? Did you know this was not the final budget and that the Board is likely to reduce the budget further (Brandon certainly knows this already) before it is finalized? I'd love to hear from the other members of the board to know whether Mr. Pugh voiced his concerns and offered any suggestions during their meetings. Pugh supporters - Please find and replace your thinking caps.
Soccer Mom March 07, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Privatize the remaining athletics, eliminate assemblies (do we really need kids to spend those hours sitting and listening to stuff they won't really remember?), cut costs on supplies.... Get this budget down and get our taxes to stay flat! I didn't vote for Pugh, but you know what, I think he did the right thing here.
Soccer Mom March 07, 2013 at 02:27 PM
I would agree on that one
Amy Tozzi March 07, 2013 at 02:32 PM
NO NEW TAXES! We are being taxed to death around here, give us a break! Say NO to the teachers unions and cut costs to bring the final budget DOWN!
Mensa March 07, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Fellow members, if we vote in inexperienced children and others with limited work experience to the BOE and renters with 1-issue agendas to town council, what do you expect. If you don't elect the best and brightest, you get gutless, inefficient, silly government.
Tom March 07, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Ms. Burgoon, today may be the deadline but unless the BOE just this week started working on the budget - which seems far fetched considering they can produce the summary meaning they have all the specific details - means your suggesting the county will make cuts is highly improbable. Mr. Pugh implied that non staff cuts could be found to reduce/eliminate the proposed tax increase. If the majority of the spending is staff pay and benefits and he has all of the details that went into the budget, why is it so difficult for him to provide the details of what cuts would satisfy him?
Our Town March 07, 2013 at 02:38 PM
I wouldn't mind the tax increases so much if the kids were being taught, curriculum's being enforced, and movie watching being reduced. My kid was forced to dance to Gagnam Style this week. How is that learning. More and more these schools are become full day babysitting facilities. It's expected that the board will raise taxes, it's the only way these people know how to close budget gaps, but I sure wish the district could figure out a way to increase the learning and reduce the time wasting.
Watcher March 07, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Amy Tozzi, I couldn't find you listed in the directory. Do you have children in the district? Would you like Mr. Pugh to say NO to the police union too or do you draw the line there?
Our Town March 07, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Best and the brightest? With those prerequisites, we'll never get anyone elected. Just curious, who was the last of the "best and the brightest?"
Joe Jonstone March 07, 2013 at 03:19 PM
No Rob, I have not attended the budget meetings but I have tried to follow your reporting. In case you haven't noticed by all the questions, it leaves a lot to be desired. For example, from above 'The $67.6 million budget ($61.5 million in the general fund; $5 million in debt service'. Doesn't that only add to $66.5 million? How much is the increase in spending for the BOE and town council. Spending is the problem not taxes and when people complain about more taxes they mean more spending because if there was less spending there would be no reason for taxes to rise. Report on that please.
M'town Truth March 07, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Drop by drop by drop, usurious property taxes are slowly drowning us. At this time, 11% of my annual income is going to pay property taxes on my home. I haven't had a raise in 3 years, but I have had property tax increases every single year. With the reassessment I was thrilled to finally see a tiny decline in my property tax. This new school budget tax increase will turn that decline into yet another property tax hike for me. I don't know what the solution is to increasing costs, but I do know that people who bought a home in Moorestown 20, 30,or 40 years ago are being priced out of their homes by snowballing increases in property taxes. Say good-bye to Moorestown's older folks, living on fixed incomes, and say hello to young families with children who use the schools and reap excess benefits from the town's homeowners. I am a big fan of our excellent schools, and am aware that they help to increase/maintain property values, but the cost has become exorbitant. After paying off a home mortgage, one would hope to own their home free and clear, but instead our homes are owned by Moorestown Township. Think not? just try skipping your property tax payments. I have long believed that homeowners who have lived in their home for more than 25 years and are over the age of, say, 65 or so, should have NO further increases in their property taxes.
Rob Scott (Editor) March 07, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Joe, The math is slightly off because I left out some other pools of money, specifically the "Special Revenue Fund," which is composed mostly of federal funds. If you add that total in ($1,078,000) it comes to $67.6 million. I just included the general fund and debt service because they're the two biggest pots of money. I can understand why that would be confusing. My mistake. I should have been more thorough. By the way, spending increased $1.2 million (or 1.92 percent) in the 2013-14 school budget. All the specific numbers are in the attached PDF, but that's the overall increase.
Watcher March 07, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Mr. Pugh since you voted NO to the budget because it increases taxes due to the increases in spending from mostly salaries, are you willing to void the teacher's contract to eliminate the increase to eliminate the tax increase? How else can you do it? Are any other BOE members willing to do this?
Joe Johnson March 07, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Funny how someone posting as "Mensa" says one of the dumbest things I've seen posted to the Patch. Also funny that you pose a question ("What do you expect?") and yet your Mensa brain didn't realize you typed a question, and thus ended it with a period instead of a question mark. Just pointing out the irony of your chosen fake name. So what you are saying - and correct me if I am wrong - is that you would prefer higher taxes?
MHS alumnus March 07, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Ok so what could we cut, how about cut the number of school buses down, if its 30 buses, cut it to 25 or 22 buses? How many people see at times bus drivers idle on the side of the roads? In some cases the buses are turned off. How many buses are actually more than. 75% filled? Look, our student population is decreasing and may decrease to a point where the school board in the next number of years will have to consider " consolidation" . We may have too many empty classrooms. Lets start now thinking of the presumed future of lower enrollment
Abigail A. March 07, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Yay. We get to pay another $200. per year. Wonderful news to those of us who have never had a single child in the Moorestown School system.
MHS alumnus March 07, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Thats the point, All taxpayers pay regardless where their kids go to school, or don't have kids. And First Lady Adams, could you suggest other ways to cut the budget, thanks!
PU March 07, 2013 at 08:05 PM
I take offense to that Moderate....I am NOT bored!!! ;))
MHS alumnus March 07, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Mr moderate ... People are angry? Wow, why not we say lets cut the paras right now and you'll get that crowd all over you . So you cut the paras and save nearly a. $1Million or we could e "sensitive" and keep them and raise taxes ? Or lets cut a dozen buses from the system or better yet outsource the buses? Do you know what it's like to be on the other side?
Bill March 08, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Agreed 100% We should have a big Nike swoosh right across the center of the new stadium turf. The disgrace that's out there now shouldn't even be called a field. More like a cow pasture.
T.S. March 08, 2013 at 05:01 PM
'The real goal should be reduced government spending, rather than balanced budgets achieved by ever rising taxes to cover ever rising spending' Thomas Sowell

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