2013-14 Lenape budget raises taxes for some homeowners

Posted: March 08, 2013

Mount Laurel property owners will see the largest increase in school taxes this year among the eight municipalities served by the Lenape Regional High School District.

Homeowners in the township will on average pay $169 more this year than last under the district's budget for the 2013-14 school year.

Medford Lakes, Medford, and Tabernacle will also see increases, while Evesham, Shamong, Southampton, and Woodland will see decreases.

Woodland homeowners will pay $215 less, on average, than last year - the largest drop.

District business manager James Hager announced on Thursday that the budget of $150.4 million represents a 1.79 percent increase over the current year's budget, and that overall tax levies will increase by 3.39 percent across the eight towns.

The large increase will not oblige towns to conduct budget referendums, said Hager, because the district saw no increase in the 2011-12 year and an increase of slightly less than 1 percent for the current year.

School districts are required to conduct special budget referendums only if their budgets increase on average more than 2 percent annually over a three-year period. With the latest increase, the district will see a rise of only 1.43 percent during 2011-14.

A large part of the projected increase for 2013-14 is a $2.1 million increase in special education costs, including the hiring of 13 staff, Hager said. The district is also referring more special education students to private institutions, and tuition at those schools is rising steeply, he said.

The budget's varying impact on municipalities is based on a state formula that calculates the current market value of all properties in each town, as well as the number of pupils each municipality sends to the regional and local schools.

The state "equalized property value" data seek to ensure that property owners in all of a district's constituent municipalities shoulder school costs equally.

Such a calculation is necessary, according to Hager, because local property assessments do not always reflect current market value.

The district, which serves 7,200 pupils, broke down the local levies as follows:

Evesham Township: a decrease of 1.16 cents per $100 of assessed value, resulting in an average reduction in regional school taxes of $35.

Medford Lakes Borough: an increase of 2.05 cents, or nearly $53 more on the home with the average assessment.

Medford Township: up 4.87 cents, for an average increase of $142.

Mount Laurel Township: an increase of 11.85 cents, for an average increase of $169.

Shamong Township: no change in the tax levy, resulting in a decrease of $1.05.

Southampton Township: a decrease of 0.63 cents, or $17 less for the average home.

Tabernacle Township: an increase of 1.23 cents, an average hike of $27.

Woodland Township: a decrease of 7.20 cents, or $215.

The changes in regional school tax levies do not include local school district taxes, which are calculated independently, as are municipal and county taxes.

The Lenape district is to hold a budget hearing March 27 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the administration building, 93 Willow Grove Rd., Shamong.

Contact David O'Reilly at 856-779-3841 or doreilly@phillynews.com or @doreillyinq on Twitter.

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