Property owners in Lakewood, NJ, would see a 4 percent jump – 3.4 cents – in the school tax rate based on a 2009-10 budget that the Board of Education introduced last night. The board voted to submit to the county a $73.6 million tax levy, of which $72.4 million will be decided by voters. The rest would go toward a debt service tax that does not appear on the ballot. The proposed budget totals $138.35 million. The tax rate is to rise to 91.92 cents per $100 of assessed property value, according to the proposal, meaning someone with a home valued at $400,000 will pay about $136 more in school tax next year. The 4 percent increase from last year is the maximum allowed by the state.Last year, the budget failed for the third year in a row. Voters will decide next year’s tax levy on April 21.
Since 2006, the district had been plagued with debt. It ended that school year with a $1.1 million deficit, which was compounded the following year when officials realized they needed another $7 million in revenue to pull out of the red by 2009.
District Business Administrator Robert Finger said the $6.5 million sale of the administration building on Princeton Avenue to Beth Medrash Govoha last fall has cured these shortfalls and allowed the district to end last school year with a $277,000 surplus. He anticipates ending the 2008-09 year $257,000 in the black, he said.
“It wiped out all the problems that ensued before I got here with (mistakes in) grants and misspending,” Finger said, referring to roughly $4.3 million in such over-expenditures. The sale also paid for about $800,000 in security upgrades and a new alternative school.
Finger acknowledged, however, that the plan to pad the surplus with money from the sale “didn’t really work out.”
The administration has since signed a five-year lease to occupy about 17,000 square feet at the site of the former Jamesway department store on Route 9 that is also owned by BMG.
Finger also expects some $8 million in federal stimulus cash for next year but no additional state aid.