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.