March 20, 2009

Budget to lower tax

No programs or staff added

By Robin Buehler; Correspondent

Voters living within the Black Horse Pike Regional School's three sending districts will be asked to vote April 21 on a no-frills $68.8 million budget that adds no additional programs or teachers and will lower property taxes for residents. Business Administrator John Oberg noted there are 295 teachers employed at the three high schools located within the school district and no additional staffing is included in the 2009-10 budget.

Nor are there any additional programs, especially athletic programs, district officials noted after a group of parents attended the meeting with one last pitch to have lacrosse instated at the three high schools.

The parents, who are affiliated with Gloucester Township youth lacrosse program, have been trying for about a year to have lacrosse implemented at Timber Creek, the high school located in Gloucester Township.

Superintendent Ralph E. Ross commended the fathers for their commitment. "You've been enthusiastically pushing for this sport more than any other group of parents I've seen," he said, adding, "I don't want to be seen as though I am putting you off since you've been coming to the meetings on a regular basis."

He acknowledged that, at some future time, the district will have to look at implementing lacrosse at each of the three high schools. Many of the surrounding high schools already have the program, but Ross and board members noted the lack of playing fields, not enough interest at the current time and budget restraints as contributing factors for not looking into starting the sport at the current time.

"We would love to have (lacrosse added)," board member Louis Vizoci said. "The problem is we can't get the budget passed. We've had three budgets passed in 30 years."

Curriculum supervisor Brian Repici added that a survey had been done. They found that students were more interested in volleyball. However, that could change "if we get a commitment from 50 or 60 or 75 kids committed to come out for tryouts," he said.

There was also a question of fields. Repici noted that "we have enough space for two baseball fields." For some of the other sports within the district, students have to be bussed off site to play and/or practice. That becomes a problem when trying to schedule practices and games around the other teams who are also utilizing the fields.

Nonetheless, in addition to the discussion on lacrosse and a brief overview of the budget, what the budget would mean for local taxpayers highlighted the evening.

"This budget will reduce taxes for Gloucester Township by five cents,"

Oberg said during a special meeting Monday night.

The tax rate for Bellmawr residents will be reduced by 2.6 cents he added, noting that Bellmawr will see the largest reduction of all.

The budget "is showing a reduction of 45 cents, which is correct," he said.

Oberg attributed the double-digit reduction to the home revaluation Bellmawr had recently undergone, and "not because we're reducing the budget to give (Bellmawr) a 45-cent tax reduction."

The revaluation caused Bellmawr's 2008-09 tax rate of 88 cents to be cut nearly be half, to 43 cents for the upcoming school year. For an owner of a home assessed at $170,200, the reduction means Bellmawr taxpayers would be paying approximately $769 less in local school taxes.

Gloucester Township taxpayers will pay $58.46 less in taxes on a home assessed at $115,000; its tax rate had gone from 93 cents to 88 compared to Runnemede's 83-cent tax rate, down from 86 cents this past school year.

Homeowners in Runnemede will pay $26.02 less in the coming year on a home assessed at $98,000, according to information provided by district officials.

The budget, which was tentatively approved during Monday night's meeting, will be forwarded to the county superintendent of schools for his review and approval prior to being presented to the voters during the April 21 school board election.


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