Haddonfield School Tax Hike Still Likely, Despite State Aid Increase
Haddonfield will receive $32K more in school aid than last year.
A school tax increase is still likely in Haddonfield despite the nearly 4 percent increase in state aid announced on Thursday.
School district officials have projected a $450,259 deficit if state aid remained flat. Haddonfield will receive $878,476 in aid, up from $846,128 last year. That still leaves $417,911 that would not be covered without raising the tax levy from this year's amount.
School Superintendent Richard Perry said he wants an additional $160,000 on top of the $417,911. He said the additional amount is to fund a new state-mandated teacher evaluation program and state-mandated core curriculum requirements, and new security procedures in light of the school shooting in Connecticut.
The total amount would mean a 1.98 percent increase in the tax levy. Any increase under 2 percent does not require a referendum vote, after a change in state law last year.
A 2-percent increase will mean a family with a home valued at the borough average of $491,000 will pay an additional $140 in school taxes annually. The typical family pays about $7,000 annually in school taxes now.
School officials said they want to keep programs and staffing at current levels and not reduce them to balance the budget. Coming up with more than $400,000 would mean cuts in technology, capital, personnel, districtwide supplies and extracurricular activities, Perry said.
Perry and the school board cited increases in teacher and administration salaries, text book and extracurricular costs for the deficit. But the biggest driver of increased costs was a 24 percent spike in the cost of special education.
Perry said special-education costs increased from $801,665 to $993,718, a $192,053 difference. That's almost half of the $417,911 deficit with the additional state aid. He said most of these costs are for tuition for some special-education students outside of the district. He said their placement outside of the district is based on recommendations from professionals about the best learning environment for them or sometimes the wishes of parents.
Perry said the 24 percent increase this year seems to be an anomaly.
"This is an unusual circumstance," he said Thursday.
The school board will hold a special budget meeting on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Haddonfield Memorial High School with anticipation of submitting it to the state to meet a Wednesday deadline.