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Lawrence school board approves 2022-23 budget

The Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education approved its $79.5 million operating budget for 2022-23, following a public hearing at the school board’s May 4 meeting.

The 2022-23 budget carries a 2-cent increase in the school district property tax rate – from $1.59 per $100 of assessed value to $1.61. The school district property tax applies to residential and non-residential properties.

A 2-cent increase in the school district property tax rate means the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $282,000 will pay $53 more than last year’s school district tax of $4,490 for that property.

Turning to the revenue side the property tax levy to support the budget is $7.25 million. Other sources of revenue include miscellaneous revenue, such as interest on savings, and money from the surplus account or fund balance.

State aid increased by $657,343 to $5.6 million. This reflects the trend of increased state aid to the Lawrence Township Public Schools. The district received $4.3 million in state aid for the 2020-21 budget and $4.9 million for the 2021-22 budget.

Building a budget is one of the most important tasks for the administration and the school board, said Ross Kasun, the superintendent of schools.

“Fiscal responsibility creates educational excellence,” Kasun said.

Every year, creating a budget is a balancing act that becomes more challenging, he said. It is a collaborative, on-going process.

Business Administrator Thomas Eldridge said the cost drivers are basically the same – salaries and benefits, and out of district tuition.

Salaries and benefits grew by $1.3 million – from $61.9 million to $63.2 million.

The budget for general education increased from $28.4 million to $28.7 million. The cost for the special education program grew from $16.4 million to $17.2 million, Eldridge said.

Tuition for schools outside of the district, which are needed for certain special education students, went up by $513,886. The district budgeted $4.2 million last year, and increased it to $4.7 million for the 2022-23 budget.

Eldridge said some of the out-of-district tuition is for charter schools – not the specialized schools for special education students.

Children moved into Lawrence Township who were already attending a charter school and whose tuition was being paid by the school district that they left, Eldridge said. Now that they have moved to Lawrence Township, it is this school district’s responsibility to pay for their tuition, he said.

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