Property owners in the Exeter School District will see a 1.5% tax increase for school year 2020-21.

The school board voted June 23 to approve a $79.4 million budget and set the real estate tax millage at 33.6073, an increase of 1.5%.

The increase means property owners in Exeter Township and St. Lawrence, the municipalities that make up the district, will pay $3,360 in taxes for every $100,000 of assessed property value.

Both resolutions were passed with votes of 6-3, with school board members John Fidler, Dr. Ann M. Hearing and Alison Wilson voting no to each.

Fidler, a graduate of Exeter High School, quoted from a letter written by John Adams, second president of the U.S., supporting public education.

Fidler said he believes in what Adams wrote, but is concerned about further burdening families already struggling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cannot support an increase in taxes even if it is modest,” he said.

Board Members Hunter Ahrens, Sharon McLendon and Hurey Miller explained their reasons for supporting the final budget and tax increase.

Ahrens, also an Exeter graduate, described the budget process as a tremendous responsibility.

“This is the most challenging vote that each of us take each year,” he said, noting the board has a responsibility to provide the youth of the community with “the best education.”

“I think it is our responsibility to support this tax increase,” he said.

McLendon said the district had an increase of 1.5% for 2019-20 and no increase for the 2018-19 school year.

The 1.5% increase for 2020-21 was necessary to balance and pass the budget by the state deadline, she said.

“We need to support our schools,” Miller said, noting a budget is one of the tools for handling possible extra expenses, such as disinfecting school buildings and equipment or providing cyber learning, that may be incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board also approved a per capita tax of $5 to be assessed on each resident of the school district, age 18 or older.

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