With two important meetings scheduled to take place at the same time in different locations tomorrow (Thursday, March 29), Lawrence Township taxpayers will be forced to decide if they want to spend their evening learning more about the township school district’s budget or the municipal budget. Tax increases are included in both budgets.
The Lawrence Township Board of Education will hold its formal hearing on the 2012-2013 school year budget at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Commons.
Meanwhile, also at 7 p.m. Thursday, Township Manager Richard Krawczun will appear at a public forum – hosted at the on Slack Avenue by the Colonial Heights Civic Association – to discuss the 2012 municipal budget and the municipal tax increase referendum that will be presented to voters on April 17.
At the school board meeting, school district Superintendent Crystal Lovell and Business Administrator Tom Eldridge will discuss the $67.17 million school budget, which carries a 3-cent increase to the township’s school tax rate. Members of the public will have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments before board members vote to formally adopt the budget.
That adoption will send the budget to township voters to approve or reject on April 17, at which time voters will also (filling three full terms and two unexpired terms).
The 3-cent hike will increase the school tax rate to $2.36 per $100 of assessed property value, meaning that the owner of a home assessed (for tax purposes) at the township average of $160,828 will pay about $3,795.54 in school taxes this year, or about $48 more than last year.
District officials have said the 3-cent increase is solely the result of the by residential and commercial property owners.
Details about the school budget can be found on the school district’s website, in the district’s monthly newsletter “The Link,” and also in previous stories on Lawrenceville Patch (see story list below).
Lovell and Eldridge will also discuss the school district budget at two upcoming PTO meetings that will be open to the general public. Those meetings will take place at 7 p.m. on April 3 at Eldridge Park Elementary School and at 7 p.m. on April 4 at Slackwood Elementary School.
During the municipal tax forum at Slackwood firehouse, Township Manager Krawczun will discuss the township’s $43.35 million budget for 2012 and explain how a decline in revenue – particularly from a cumulative decrease of over $167 million in ratables due to successful tax appeals over the last five years – has created financial problems for the township.
The 2012 budget includes a 5-cent increase that will raise the municipal tax rate from $0.84 per $100 of assessed property value to $0.89, meaning that the owner of a home assessed (for tax purposes) at the township average of $160,828 will pay about $1,431 in municipal taxes for 2012, or about $80 more than in 2011.
On top of that 5-cent increase, the budget also includes a 9-cent increase to the municipal tax rate that township voters will be asked to approve on April 17 through a referendum held in conjunction with the school board election and school budget vote. Voter approval is needed because the 9-cent increase exceeds the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap.
The additional 9 cents, if approved by voters, will raise the municipal tax rate to $0.98, increasing the 2012 municipal tax bill for the average home owner by another $144.75.
Krawczun has repeatedly explained that the additional 9-cent tax increase is needed to avoid the township having to use 97 percent of its surplus fund to balance the 2012 budget. To take the surplus fund so low would leave the township financially unable to respond to a natural disaster or other unforeseen crisis, and would also create future “catastrophe” because not enough surplus would be available as a revenue source to help balance the 2013 budget.
Krawczun has also said that spending is not to blame for the township’s budget woes, blaming instead the decline to the tax base and decreases in state aid in recent years.
If voters reject the tax referendum on April 17, the township will be forced to revise the budget by cutting expenditures. And the way that will be done, Krawczun and township council have said, is that the cost of residential trash collection and disposal will be removed from the municipal budget. All such trash costs will instead be covered by a new mandatory “user fee” assessed against all residential property owners in town.
With estimates placing that user fee at about $336 per year, Krawczun and council members have repeatedly noted that, for most homeowners, the 9-cent tax rate hike would ultimately cost less than the trash user fee. They have also stressed the fact that municipal taxes are deductible on individual income tax returns, whereas a trash user fee would not be deductible.
During the forum, members of the public will be given a chance to ask Krawczun questions about the budget and referendum. Krawczun will appear at another such forum that will be held at 7 p.m. on April 12 in the community room of the at 2211 Lawrence Rd. (Route 206).
For School Budget and School Board, See:
- Feb. 29: “”
- Feb. 29: “”
- Feb. 15: “”
- Jan. 11: “”
For Municipal Tax Referendum, See:
- March 26: “”
- March 26: “
- March 20: “”
- March 14: “”
- March 8: “”
- Feb. 23: “”
- Feb. 9: “”
- Jan. 18: “”