Letter to the Editor: Commitment to more responsible budgeting

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To the Editor,

We are immensely grateful to the League of Women Voters for hosting a voter forum. While we touched on a number of important topics, there is more that voters need to know about important school-related issues.

One critical issue not discussed at the forum was taxes. This year, the public became engaged in the budgetary process after the board passed a preliminary budget that raised concerns from community leaders. If you care about education or your tax bill, we hope you continue to stay involved. While traditional and social media seems quite focused on municipal issues and political races, the school board’s decisions have far greater impact on your pocketbook.

Take these facts as examples of the import and impact of school budget decisions:

  • FACT: The 2019 school budget is about $83 million.
  • FACT: The school portion of your property tax bill is greater than all other segments combined (Municipality, County, Open Space, Fire).
  • FACT: For Township residents, the school portion of property taxes went up $0.049per $100 — the driving factor in total property taxes going up $0.054 per $100.
  • FACT: The segment with the greatest percentage increase was the fire district at 6.5%, yet its impact was hundredths of a penny.
  • FACT: The 2019 School tax levy increase of $3.8 million exceeded that of the previous 4 years combined and cut services, despite receiving the highest state aid increase after a 12+ year continuing enrollment decline.
  • FACT: The month after the School Board passed its budget spending $2.3 million over the state-mandated 2% cap, the Board authorized transferring $2.5 million to reserves.

In their 2019 self-evaluation, the school board reported record low performance in its handling of finance, board effectiveness and community relations. Please elect Herbert & Mason for our commitment to more responsible budgeting with reasonable taxes, while improving communication with residents and outcomes for all students.

Bill Herbert & John Mason
Hopewell Township