By Laura Waters

It’s budget season, and the Lawrence Township Board of Education is, predictably, preoccupied with fiscal matters.

While there is no public vote on the vote this year—last fall, the board decided to move school board elections to November, joining the vast majority of New Jersey public school districts—we are committed to balancing the educational needs of the children with the limits of taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

As of the Gazette’s deadline, the LTPS budget for 2013-2014 school year is $67.5 million. $61.8 million must be raised through local tax levy. The main drivers of our budget increase include this year’s $28 million drop in Lawrence Township ratables; $600,000 in new health care benefits costs due to the federal Affordable Care Act; increases in special education, including out-of-district tuition; security and transportation. The total tax increase is about 2.5 percent. Over the last five years, Lawrence school taxes have increased by 3 percent. This is an especially challenging year.

For more information, including spreadsheets of budget line items, go to the district website (ltps.org) and click on “Budget Central.”

On to happier news. Lawrence High School’s boys’ varsity basketball team captured the Central Jersey Group III Sectional Championship. The girls’ basketball team had a great season, too; senior guard Daphne Ginn has over 1,000 career points. Lawrence Middle School hoopster Myles Mitchell-White has scored 524 points over his middle school career.

In other sports news, Kate O’Rourke placed third in the state in 50 freestyle at the Meet of Champions swimming competition, and Peter Finnerty placed 9th in the state in the 100 freestyle. Wrestler Gordon Wolf placed 2nd in the Region V championship and will compete in the state tournament.

The district’s halls are alive with music—in March, Lawrence Middle School performed Guys and Dolls and Lawrence High School performed Oklahoma.

A few other honors: Lawrence High senior Nyya Toussaint has been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for exemplary community service, particularly his leadership at the helm of a new student-run program called “Threads.” The Lawrence High School DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America, Inc.) Chapter competed at the State Leadership Conference and received 33 awards. This month, 15 members will go on to the DECA International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Finally, Lawrence Middle School 8th grader James Gow qualified to compete in the state round of competition for National History Day by producing a grand website on Martin Luther King, Jr. Go Cardinals!

Laura Waters, Ph.D., is president of the Lawrence Township Board of Education. Her email is laurawaters6@gmail.com.