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School Budget, Municipal Tax Referendum Subjects of Rival Meetings Thursday

Lawrence Township taxpayers will have to decide whether to go to the school board's formal budget hearing or Township Manager Richard Krawczun's public forum about the municipal tax increase. Both meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29.

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: “”
Frank Lee March 28, 2012 at 09:54 PM
I'm guessing by your earlier use of quotation marks and the phrase "non-educational" that you don't think that educating special needs students is really education. I invite you to offer your plan for this population. You don't seem to have a problem spending money on "the few" when it is a group that you deem worthy. Transparent. The district serves all students. Some cost more to educate. You want a secure future? Pay for it.
Frank Lee March 28, 2012 at 09:55 PM
That's right. There are far more events than any single person can attend. Conflicts come from all directions, for all parties. That's life.
Waya Walmart March 28, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I have a doctors appointment that night.
Michele Sullivan March 29, 2012 at 01:00 AM
During the presentation regarding the budget I learned that the LTPS budget is approximately $500K below the 2% allowable cap imposed by the state of NJ. Additionally, Dr. Lovell stated that the district was, in a sense, punished in the past by the state government because we were able to "come in under budget" and consequently our funding was reduced." When I asked Dr. Lovell if she was worried that perhaps coming in under budget this year might send the same message to the government, her response was "we're hoping that doesn't happen again." Seriously? Forgive me, but is our school district really HOPING we don't lose more funding? Aren't we taught to learn from our mistakes? I would rather the district increase the budget to the full 2% and restore some of the programs that were previously cut. It scares me to think that we may have to cut even more programs because we "hoped" wrong. With regard to the date of the hearing, the school district calendar did not have evening events scheduled for March 20th, 26th or 27th. However, the district chose the 29th as the evening for the hearing, a night when three schools have activities clearly listed on the calendar.
Prudence Pennypincher March 29, 2012 at 06:26 PM
You misunderstood, Michele. The district was not punished for taxing too little. It was punished for maintaining a reserve fund in the surplus account. The money was simply taken by the State, and there was no way to know it would happen. There is no assurance that the State will do something similarly fickle, regardless of what course is taken. All one can do is hope, unless you have a crystal ball. But if you want to spend more on education, that's refreshing to see. What does your crystal ball tell you about the availability of a quorum of school board members on those other dates? Does it say anything about when the county superintendent reviewed the budget prior to sending it back to the district?

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