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School Tax Increase Shrinks by $70

The Moorestown Board of Education approved a budget Wednesday much cheaper for taxpayers than the one it approved three weeks ago. Find out how they got there, and why one administrator is 'very concerned' about it.

By using significantly more of its fund balance, the school district lopped more than $70 off a projected tax increase for the 2013-14 school year. 

When the budget was initially approved at the beginning of the month, the district planned to increase the general fund tax levy by $1.07 million—right at the 2 percent cap—with a $133,913 (or 2.83 percent) decrease in the debt service levy, for a 1.61 percent overall increase, which would have translated to $107.97 more in taxes for a homeowner assessed at the township average ($445,716).

The $66.9 million budget adopted by the board of education Wednesday calls for only a $401,692 (.75 percent) increase in the general fund tax levy, with the debt service remaining the same.

According to business administrator Lynn Shugars, that comes out to only a $30.78 increase (.46 percent) for the average assessed home. 

The district got there by drawing a large amount of money out of its fund balance, which is essentially what the district banks every year when it either doesn't spend as much money as projected, or brings in more revenue than it projected (or both). 

For the 2013-14 year, Moorestown will use $2.5 million in fund balance to help balance the budget. That's $773,924—or 43.6 percent—more than the district used in 2012-13. Shugars said the amount of money the district has to use from its fund balance each year is mandated by the state.

When questioned by Moorestown Education Association president Lisa Trapani, Shugars admitted the board is "very concerned" about using such a large amount.

"If we use this much this year, I'm concerned about what will be available next year," she said, while also acknowledging that the district often spends less than projected and/or brings in more revenue than projected.

The board approved the budget by a vote of 6-2, with members Brandon Pugh and David Weinstein voting "no."

Some other highlights from the budget:

  • A significant amount has been earmarked for technology-related improvements throughout the district, Superintendent Brian Betze explained, including: providing a laptop for every teacher in grades 7-12, ensuring every classroom is "technology ready," and hiring a director of educational technology to oversee the district's use of technology in the classroom, as well as hiring a temporary, part-time IT technician for April-June (at a salary of $4,787.63). 
  • The budget included a $193,457 increase in miscellaneous revenues, in large part because of projected revenue from tuition for the district's new full-day kindergarten program.
  • was not included in the budget. 
Cup of Joe March 28, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Is this like the what town council is proposing to use using the liquor surplus? Here the BOE is using surplus or savings to have lower tax rate ?
Rakesh Gupta March 28, 2013 at 12:45 PM
A tax increase is still a tax increase no matter how you spin it.
Watcher March 28, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Kudos on Mr. Pugh's NO vote again. 4 weeks ago he had this to say. "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." Did he offer any cuts or ideas or is voting NO just grandstanding? Is surplus not alternative revenues?
Ace March 28, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Brandon Pugh and David Weinstein are in my crosshairs the next time they run for the board. They voted against the taxpayers in favor of the tax increase.
MotownFan March 28, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Must be terribly frustrating and very insulting to have Brandon Pugh on the BOE. While I am sure he is a nice kid, he is just that. He has no business experience, only a few years into his college education and very limited adult life experience. How can he make an educated vote on numbers this big and issues so complicated? I do not mean to insult the future of the young man or eventual ability to actually contribute to the BOE but who ever voted for him should be really think about it as more than a nice kid wanting to step up. He is not qualified to be on the BOE. The only thing his positions proves is that he is a nice kid with a lot of friends. I'd be very happy if in time it is proven I am wrong, just dont see it.
Aceless March 28, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Ace: How does voting against the budget which includes a tax increase somehow in your mind equate to voting for a tax increase? Aceless
Cup of Joe March 28, 2013 at 04:50 PM
Oh? That's sounds cold and old
MotownFan March 28, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Joe, read the post again... Not meant to but this kid is not qualified to sit on the BOE of a school district of this caliber nor vote on a budget of this size. If you think so highly of his qualifications verses his charming personality by all means give him a job in your company or let him run it for that matter. As I said, I hope in time I am proven wrong and I promise to post a public apology if deserved.
Cup of Joe March 28, 2013 at 05:19 PM
What's rather interesting is who is going to run for BOE election this year? Are the incumbents running? Or what new or those people going to retry at this? Don't you think Bp ran a good campaign? And the Dems on BOE ran the party line strategy? So, wondering if three years you will remember this vote when Dave and Bp are up together for reelection?
M'town Truth March 28, 2013 at 05:40 PM
I applaud this move to use some of the fund balance. Why should taxpayers have to fork over more money when money they've already paid is sitting in a bank account earning nothing? There are new ratables in the township, assessments should be more accurate, and we're all being told that the economy is getting better. Those things will help to keep the budget balanced and rebuild reserves for future contingencies.
Watcher March 28, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Did Ms. Tripani explain what she wanted them to do instead? Did she favor more taxes because a contract is coming up?
MotownFan March 28, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Politic have no place. Clearly he ran a good campaign. So did President Obama.
Cup of Joe March 28, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Are you suggesting some BOE members need to to take a stand and demand no raises for any teachers making over say $60k for a few years? Maybe take a stand for teachers to pay more for their benefits? Shared services? Sell underutilized vehicles?
Watcher March 28, 2013 at 08:14 PM
@joe why would you single out $60K. Would you do the same for township and police? Do police or teachers earn more? Can they sell some excess police cars?
Cup of Joe March 28, 2013 at 08:59 PM
The police cars are rotated. I think we could argue some cops and teachers that have longevity make over $100k, some cops and teachers make under. $60k. Town council did work with the police before on benefits and salaries maybe BOE can do same with teachers?

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