LOWER TOWNSHIP — Lower Cape May Regional School District is proposing a $31.5 million budget that is up less than one percent from last year.
The budget, according to figures supplied by Business Administrator Mark Mallet, is up by $129,382, or 0.41 percent.
The amount to be raised by taxes, however, is climbing from $18.5 million to $19.2 million and several towns in the district would see a tax increase. The grade 7-12 district includes Cape May, Lower Township and West Cape May.
Taxes are apportioned based on a state funding formula geared mostly to property values in the three towns. The formula is recalculated every year and the rates are often influenced by property revaluations in the towns.
West Cape May would see the largest increase this year. The borough’s tax rate would go from 29.4 cents for each $100 of assessed value to 39 cents. That means the owner of a $100,000 home will see the tax bill go from $294 to $390. Mallet’s figures show the average residential assessment in West Cape May is $436,972 and the tax bill for that value would be $1,705.
Cape May, which is trying to leave the school system over what it claims are excessive costs, would see its tax rate go from 22.6 cents per $100 of assessed value to 23.9 cents. This would increase the bill for a $100,000 home from $226 to $239. The average home in Cape May is assessed at $629,926 and this produces a tax bill of $1,506.
Lower Township would see its rate go from 29.1 cents to 32.4 cents, which is from $291 to $324 for a $100,000 home. The increase is somewhat skewed by a revaluation of properties that lowered values townshipwide by more than 11 percent. When ratables go down, a tax rate goes up but it doesn’t mean more money is being collected.
The average assessment in the township is $229,000 and would carry a tax bill under this budget of $742. If that house lost the average value in the revaluation of 11.6 percent it would have been worth about $260,000 last year and paid a tax bill of $755.
“Taxes are going down a little bit in Lower Township. The tax rate went up, but it’s due to the revaluation,” Superintendent Christopher Kobik said.
“It’s all dependent on equalized value and what the state does with the formula,” Mallet added.
The spending plan includes $298,705 for capital projects that will be funded by the general budget as the district is not allowed to borrow money since Cape May petitioned to leave or dissolve the district.
Kobik said this will pay for two new school buses, surveillance equipment, and technology investments. The budget includes $60,000 for maintenance projects that are temporary fixes, such as repairing roofs and plumbing, until it is allowed to bond again.
The district is also in the midst of an energy-saving audit that is expected to save money in the long run. A solar-panel array has already been installed that is saving about $80,000 a year.
Kobik said the new school Choice Program is also paying dividends. It brought in 15 students from towns outside the district and $220,000 in state aid this year. Next year it is projected to include 39 students and $557,000 in state aid.
Kobik said the costs of insurance, diesel fuel to run the buses, and maintenance supplies are all rising and he is not replacing retiring teachers, unless absolutely necessary, as one way to save money.
“We’re doing everything we can not to replace people when they retire,” Kobik said.
The cost per pupil is currently at $17,080 but is projected to decline to $16,795 under the new budget.
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