Draft Moorestown school budget lays out cuts

Posted: March 20, 2014

MOORESTOWN Faced with a revenue shortfall of $4 million, Moorestown's Board of Education adopted a preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year Tuesday that calls for laying off about a dozen teachers, adds fees for students to participate in clubs, sports, and theater, and to park their cars, and imposes a property-tax hike.

The proposed budget of $62.3 million would be $1.5 million, or 2.5 percent, larger than this year's, with contractually obligated increases in salaries and benefits a major contributor.

If the budget is adopted, the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $445,000 would pay $141 more next year in property taxes, Lynn Shugars, the district's business manager, told the school board at its regular meeting.

Last year, the district was able to offset the impact of similar increases by tapping into a $2.5 million surplus fund. But with little more than $400,000 in surplus this year, administrators are looking at stringent measures to balance the budget.

Board President Don Mishler took pains to assure the audience - and voters - that the budget was being adopted only preliminarily so that the district could present it to the county for review.

"There will be an opportunity for feedback along the way," he said. The board is scheduled to adopt a final budget April 29. He said the board's vote to accept the administration's recommendations now did "not necessarily represent an endorsement" of some controversial parts of it, such as enlarged classes at the high school or "pay to play" fees.

"We're looking to save as much as we can in order to move forward," newly appointed school Superintendent Timothy Rehm, who arrived Feb. 4, told the crowd. "We know where we need to go."

The proposed budget calls for eliminating six teaching positions at the high school, two - special education and family consumer science - at the middle school, and four full-time and two part-time positions at the elementary level.

Additionally, the plan calls for eliminating an administrative position and outsourcing the night custodial staff, for total savings of $1.4 million.

What students and their families could feel even more acutely than teacher layoffs, however, are the activities fees.

Under the proposed budget, high school students would pay $225 a year to participate in sports or theater, $50 to belong to clubs, and $100 for seniors to park on campus.

For middle schoolers, sports and theater would cost $100. Youngsters in the upper elementary grades would pay between $25 and $50.

Low-income families who qualify for the reduced-lunch program would not be obliged to pay the fees.

Mishler noted that proposals to charge for extracurricular activities had been considered in each of the last three years but had always been rejected.

856-779-3841 doreilly@phillynews.com@doreillyinq

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