What You Need To Know About Dennis Township, NJ Ballot Question
When residents of Dennis Township go to their Poll Placings to vote on November 7th, they will be asked to vote on a proposed tax levy that would help the Dennis Township School District bridge the budget gap due to a reduction in state aid.
On Dennis Township Voter Ballots is a "Separate Question" that asks residents to approve a tax levy that would allow money to be raised specifically to fulfill the School District Budgetary Needs that are the result of reduced state funding. The School District needs $1,276,758 to maintain the current operating costs including Teacher Salaries, Costs for Sports and Clubs, plus bus services for Elementary and Middle School students.
After the state of New Jersey passed and enacted into law S2, this changed the amount of State School Aid that each district gets based on student population and the ambiguous "local fiscal capacity". In the aftermath of this change in New Jersey's school funding formula, Dennis Township School District has seen a reduction in state funding in three of the last four school years. In 2019-20 School Year the State Aid for Dennis Township School District was $5,210,843 and now for the 2023-24 School Year the State Aid is $1,674,187.
This aggressive decrease in State Funding for the Dennis Township has put the School District Administration in the unenviable position of now asking the voters to help offset costs. Thanks in part to the New Jersey Education Association (New Jersey Teacher's Union) getting new pay and benefit increases for teachers across the state, School Districts are now having to spend more money than previously budgeted. According to a breakdown of the Dennis Township School District Budget, the categories of "Instructional and Student Support Services" and "Employee Benefits" account for 48.8% of the School District's annual budget.
A Public Service Announcement Video (that is 5 minutes and 40 seconds in length) has been released on the Dennis Township Schools website addressing the School District's plea to Voters on behalf of the "Separate Question" on the November 7th Ballot. The video features:
-Superintendent Susan Speirs
-Board of Education President Nichol Hoff-
-Business Administrator Teri Weeks
-Board of Education Vice President Mary Kate Garry
-Principal Jamie VanArtsdalem
Along with an anonymous narrator, the five School District Administrators take turns speaking about why residents need to vote on November 7th. What is not addressed in the video is how the proposed tax levy would impact Dennis Township Residents.
On Page 27 of the PowerPoint presentation from Dennis Township School District's Budget Overview that was originally presented at the April 27th Public Hearing, there is a more specific explanation of "Tax Impact Projections". The 2023 Preliminary Ratable Base will increase by 0.17% and if voters vote "Yes" for the "Separate Question" will have the following financial impact:
*The Impact on $100 per assessed Value is $143.91
*The Impact on an Average Dennis Township Home (valued at $278,800) will be an additional $484.86 per year
For context, the Median Cape May County Household Income is $76,237, which is almost $20,000 less than the Median Dennis Township Resident Household Income ($94,474). Now compare that to the Median Teacher Income at Dennis Township School District is $56,548, which is 628th out of 651 New Jersey School Districts. For reference, that is almost $40,000 less than the highest paid Teacher in Cape May County. So based on the numbers what the Dennis Township School District is asking for from the Voters on November 7th is not extreme or excessive.
Considering the state of the Economy and Inflation in 2023 combined with the reality that not everyone has a Household Income of $75,000 this tax levy will negatively impact some people more than others. But in Dennis Township, they are letting voters decide this School District issue on November 7th instead of government officials making any unilateral decisions without input from the people.
The New Jersey State Senate in 2018 passed 25-13-2 in favor of the S2 Legislation that created this financial predicament that Dennis Township is in now. The State Senator who represented Cape May County in 2018, Jeff Van Drew, was one of the 13 "No" votes.
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