LINWOOD — The Mainland Regional School District budget will increase taxes for Somers Point residents in the upcoming year, while neighboring Linwood and Northfield have a slight decrease.
The $30,168,356 spending plan will raise $18,735,219 through local tax levy. According to Chief School Administrator Mark Marrone, the district is expecting to receive $8,402,381 in state aid to support the budget. The plan also includes the use of $2,468,481 in fund balance for tax relief. The tax impact over the current year breaks out to a 4.5 cent increase per $100 of assessed property value for Somers Point property owners. Linwood tax payers will see a .08 cent decrease and Northfield will see a .07 cent decrease. The budget reflects a 1.5% or $276,875 increase over the current year's plan.
Somers Point taxpayers will see their regional tax bill increase $45.56 for each $100,000 of their property’s assessment, so a home assessed at $250,000 would see an annual increase of $113.90. In neighboring Linwood, a taxpayer should expect their bill to reflect a drop of $20.25 on a home assessed at $250,000 and in Northfield a decrease of $17.68 on the same assessed value.
The 2020-21 budget keeps all of the district’s clubs, athletic programs and the aquatic center intact and includes the purchase of new uniforms for the Mainland Marching Band. The district negotiated a contract agreement with the Mainland Regional Education Association for a 2.9% increase for the upcoming year. The budget includes $174,000 for increased insurance costs for the upcoming year, a 4.7% increase over the current year.
The continued slide in ratables in each of the sending districts coupled with decreasing enrollment numbers, out-of-district tuition and special education costs are blamed in part for the tax increase. A tuition obligation of $909,867 will cover 21 students at CharterTech High School for Performing Arts and 58 students at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology.
Marrone said the district is offering innovative and nontraditional academic opportunities to students such as CAD for interior design, gaming design, entertainment technology, computer science honor courses, journalism and writing for the media, financial accounting, payroll accounting, robotics, remote pilot education and drone certification that he hopes will show that Mainland is competitive on every level for every student and keep more students in district. The superintendent added that special education costs are projected at $5,400,174 and include the cost of tuition, transportation and staffing.
Each of the three sending districts of Linwood, Northfield and Somers Point contribute to the Mainland Regional budget based on the enrollment of their students at the high school and the municipalities' regional equalized valuation. In 2015, Mainland had 1,367 students enrolled. The current school year saw that number dip to 1,222. Marrone said because of the employment climate and families moving away from the area to seek stable employment, those enrollment numbers may continue to erode. Currently there are 375 students attending MRHS from Linwood, 442 from Northfield and 405 from Somers Point.
The budget was approved unanimously by the Board of Education members and has been likewise approved by the Atlantic County Superintendent of Schools.