Home Lawrence Ledger Lawrence Ledger News Lawrence school budget shows decrease, but taxes increase due to current expense...

Lawrence school budget shows decrease, but taxes increase due to current expense spending

The Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education approved the school district’s $75.7 million operating budget for 2020-21 following a public hearing at the school board’s May 6 meeting.

Although the 2020-21 budget showed a decrease of $371,803 as compared to last year’s budget of $76 million, it still calls for a 4-cent increase in the school district property tax rate.

The school district property tax rate will increase from $1.53 per $100 of assessed value to $1.57. This means the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $281,403 will pay $4,418 in school district property taxes, or about $126 more than last year.

Business Administrator Thomas Eldridge told the school board that the decrease in the 2020-21 operating budget is due to capital outlay in the current year, which was paid for by the capital reserve and fund balance. The 2019-20 budget earmarked $2.4 million for capital outlay, and the 2020-21 budget sets it at $134,864.

“We have an actual increase [of $1.9 million] in the budget for current expense [spending],” Eldridge said.

Increases in salaries and benefits account for $1.8 million of the $1.9 million increase. The remainder is made up of increases in transportation, utilities, supplies and services.

The budget calls for raising $69.7 million in property taxes to support the 2020-21 spending plan, or $1.4 million more than last year. Other sources of revenue include $4.6 million in state aid, $925,000 from the capital reserve/fund balance, and $328,000 in miscellaneous revenue.

The main cost drivers in the 2020-21 budget are salaries and benefits, which increased by $1.8 million, Eldridge said. This includes salaries, pensions, Social Security and health insurance premiums. At $61.2 million combined, it makes up about 80% of the operating budget.

“It is what is driving the budget,” Eldridge said.

Looking at trends, Eldridge said the cost of the special education program climbed from 19% of spending in the 2016-17 budget to 21% of spending in the 2020-21 operating budget.

During the same time period, regular education programs accounted for 39% of spending in the 2016-17 budget, as compared to 37% in the 2020-21 budget, he said.

Other spending categories have remained about the same. Transportation has consistently made up 5% of spending. Security, maintenance and utilities accounted for 11% of spending in the 2016-2017 budget, and 9 percent in the 2020-21 budget.

The school district controls costs in a number of ways, Eldridge said.

About 25% of the district’s electricity is derived from the solar panels put on the roof of every school building several years ago. The solar panels generate about $300,000 in solar renewable energy credits.

The district also retrofitted the lighting system, moving to the use of LED bulbs, Eldridge said.

 

 

Exit mobile version