LINWOOD — The Linwood Board of Education approved the district's 2018-19 spending plan May 2 with a slight increase over the original budget introduced last month.

The original $14,218,698 budget with a tax levy of $11,371,662 called for a tax rate increase of 2.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value. According to District Superintendent Brian Pruitt, the finalized budget is $14,346,455 and is supported by a tax levy of $11,486,749, bumping the tax rate increase for property owners to 2.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Next school year's budget will cost taxpayers with a home at the city average of $293,933 an additional $82.30 over the current year.

Linwood Business Administrator and Board Secretary Teri Weeks said the district received an increase in state aid for next year of $104,781. While that helped, the largest chunk of the budget increase, basically 1.4 cents of the 2.8-cent increase, is the direct result of another drop in city ratables. The city’s assessed value dipped $11,644,200 due to successful tax appeals.

Part of the increase comes from the addition of a media specialist for the Belhaven library. Pruitt said the creation of the position began with conversations with parents who felt strongly about the need to have a media specialist in place in the library. The school board agreed that the position would bolster Linwood as a district that is preparing its kids for success.

Pruitt said under the Linwood Education Association contract and salary guide, the cost would be $75,000 including salary and benefits for a new hire. The proposed media specialist position will be 10 months, Sept. 1 through June 30. The plan is to have the person in place when school begins in the fall.

The superintendent said creating the position and budgeting for the media specialist is the biggest move to bolster the library and additional stocking and supplying of the library will be a gradual process. Pruitt said there are a lot of aspects to the process and the district will begin the work to find the best possible person to join the Belhaven team.

Also contributing to the budget increase was transportation costs for an out-of-district placement that added $49,257 to the budget. An additional $9,170 was used from the district's fund balance, or surplus account, to help offset the tax increase, bringing the total fund balance used to support the budget to $1,063,324.

Pruitt said he remains optimistic all of the positive news coming out of Atlantic City with the addition of the Hard Rock Casino and the Ocean Casino will translate into positive news for Linwood.

“We have great schools and a great community and a terrific location, and I hope some of those new people moving to this area will take a good look at everything Linwood has to offer and make it their home,” said the superintendent.

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