Sunday, March 14, 2010

Moorestown School Budget

School Budget
I want to take a brief diversion from my normal running updates to encourage people to vote on the School Budget on April 20, and to pass along some information as well as give you some of my personal thoughts.

Readers Digest Version
To give a quick review of what is being voted on, the School Board has proposed a budget of $61.3M as compared with last year's $61.6M budget. The tax increase to fund this budget is 1.9%, or an average of $124 per household.

There is a reduction of 43 positions as well as 10 coaching positions in the middle school and 8 coaches in the high school, including elimination of the Winter Track and Bowling teams. This results in a reduction of over $1.3M in expenses.

Unfortunately in spite of the reductions, there are three primary factors that are causing the request for a tax increase:
  1. State aid is falling by about $800K due to reductions in the state budget.
  2. Benefits are increasing by about $1.1M due to contractual obligations covering health and pension benefits.
  3. The tax rate-ables have decreased for Moorestown as a result of the re-valuation - in essence homeowners got a net tax decrease while the township and school district got lower tax revenue.
If you want some more information, I would recommend reading this powerpoint presentation, reading the proposed budget, or taking a look at some of the other links.

Last year the budget was rejected by a vote of 1,208 to 1,050. With over 4,200 students in the district, it is surprising how few parents vote. I think part of this is that people find it difficult to remember. So here is a link to the polling places as well as a link for an Absentee Ballot (this is what I do because of last minute out-of-town business trips).

Personal Perspective
This may be a little out of place, but let me give you my thoughts on this subject from several perspectives.

First, as a homeowner, one of the most valuable assets that I have is my home value. Some day I will sell my house and I hope that I can make money on it. Much of that home value is tied up in the perception and reality of the quality of the school district. It attracts new people to come and buy homes in Moorestown. Having repeated budget defeats gives the district a bad perception and does affect quality in some manner. I understand that the reverse logic can apply with tax rates being too high. But from my perspective, the $124 extra tax I pay will be more than offset by the increase in my home value over time. In some ways, it is like justifying a home remodeling project that preserves and increases the value of my home.

Second, there is much frustration over employee compensation and benefits within the school district. Passing or rejecting this budget has zero impact on that. That contract is done every three years between the board and the unions and employees. The contract is coming up this year. The way to influence that is to correspond with the board and teachers as part of that process. If you feel passionate about that, then make your voice heard on that subject - not by abstaining from the voting process or using it as the logic for voting no.

Third, as a person who has had the benefit of a good education I want to make sure that is available for future generations. And my definition of education is beyond the formal subjects taught in the classroom and include athletics and the arts. I trace much of my personal success and happiness to the lessons I learned running cross country and track and being part of those teams and having the mentorship of coaches. Hard work, setting goals, having fun, being part of a team. It is the reason I volunteer with the distance runners in the high school - to pass along the benefits that I received.

I know that if this budget gets rejected, the cuts will come from extracurricular activities around athletics and arts. And that is the primary reason why I will be voting for the budget.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

This assumes, of course, that $$$ have any correlation to quality of education. That is the myth that the NEA and politicians have been promoting for years. And just a quick comparison of $$$ per student, say in Camden vs. Moorestown (Camden is WAY higher), there is no correlation. The public sector, including teachers and administrators and their facilites, must now start to face the harsh realities that they have been hiding from through endless tax increases. In NJ, thanks to our present Governor, the game is over.