The bulk of the increase owes to debt service, including the district bond referendum passed in September, and includes a number of infrastructure improvements.
By Matt Skoufalos
Months after approving a $40-million bond referendum to upgrade the local public school infrastructure, Haddon Township taxpayers will also foot the bill for a 2-percent increase in their local school tax levy for 2015-16.
The bright side, according to Superintendent Nancy Ward, is that the $281.80 increase in annual taxes for a home assessed at the township average is “only a few dollars more” than the estimated $274 impact of the bond referendum.
Of the $1.583-million year-over-year increase, $433,003 will be levied for the general fund, and $1.15 million will be allocated for debt service, including the bond issue.
The annual household contribution to the district debt service ($204) was “significantly reduced when the bonds were sold and our older bonds were re-sold at a lower rate,” Ward told NJ Pen in an e-mail. Without the referendum, the local contribution to the 2015-16 budget would only have risen $77 per household, she said.
In total, the district has proposed a $32.86-million budget for the 2015-16 school year, up about 1 percent from its $32.53-million 2014-15 budget. The increase equals 12.572 cents per $100 of assessed value, 9.136 cents per $100 of which is for debt service and 3.435 cents per $100 of which is dedicated to the general fund.
Haddon Township had a total ratable base of $1.259 billion in 2014, and the value of the average home in the township is up 0.08 percent, from $223,984 to $224,147 in 2015. Sixty-nine percent of district revenue is sourced locally; 23 percent comes from the state.
Ward has spoken often about the district working to recover operationally from state aid cuts of some $1.5 million in 2010-11. At $8.39 million, state aid for the 2015-16 school year will remain flat over year-ago levels. In the past six years, the state has increased incrementally its contributions to the district, but the money it will get this year is still nearly a half-million dollars less than what Haddon Township had been allocated in 2009-10.
Referendum, local dollars in action
Bond-financed projects kicking off this year involve renovations to roofing, boilers, and elevators throughout the district as well as new construction of all-purpose rooms at Stoy, Van Sciver, and Strawbridge Elementary Schools; Van Sciver is also adding new classroom space.
The budget also includes district-wide maintenance improvements that will be funded from this year’s local appropriations, including painting and sidewalk work, the replacement of asbestos tiles, lighting efficiency upgrades, and the resurfacing of the track.
Haddon Township will also replace a pair of buses that the district has deemed “out-of-date.”
On the curriculum side, the 2015-16 budget includes “more in-district programming for students with disabilities,” additional software-integrated education, and a review of curricula in math, science, and pre-K education.
It will also fund the creation of an additional high-school math teacher, student summer work in the district technology program, and seven additional performing arts stipends that had been previously paid for by student activities fees. (Ward had previously identified the elimination of student activity fees as a give-back in the referendum process.)
The Haddon Township Board of Education will hold a public hearing and vote on the budget May 7. To review the entire summary presentation, click here.