Mount Laurel schools to get more state aid

By Sean Patrick Murphy

The Mount Laurel School District will receive an additional $594,632 in state aid than was previously announced..

State Senator Diane Allen said Mount Laurel is now slated to get $4,028,712 in aid for next school year. That’s $1,189,264 more than last year ($2,839,448), or a 41.9% increase.

Senator Allen said she worked closely with the Christie administration in an effort to gain a fairer share of school aid dollars in the final state budget signed by the governor for communities in Burlington and Camden counties.

“Additional school aid means a better learning environment for our children and less pressure on local property taxes,” Senator Allen said.

“The additional aid was made possible by a commitment to fiscal discipline and a commitment to living within our means,” Allen continued. “By controlling runaway state spending, we were able to prioritize education aid for suburban districts like ours.”

Mount Laurel Superintendent of Schools Antoinette Rath said she’ll celebrate once the aid materializes.

“Until I receive notice from the Department of Education regarding the ‘official’ amount to be sent to the district, I will hope for the best,” Rath said. “After the dramatic loss in state aid in the 2010–2011 school year, we did everything possible to keep our accounts under the mandated 2 percent cap and continue to provide exceptional programming for our students.

“I am 100 percent behind the possibility of obtaining additional funds,” she added.

Rath called the news a “welcomed surprise.

“The possibility of obtaining increased funds is a good thing,” she said. “I think a better long-term solution may have been to properly fund the school-funding formula that is currently in place.”

Rath said she is not sure where the new money will go.

“I am not certain of the strings, if any, that will be attached to the additional funding,” she said.

“Nevertheless, additional dollars does not always mean additional spending,” Rath said. “We will look to do as much as we can to keep our programs whole and keep the local tax burden to our residents as low as possible.”

The superintendent said every area of the school district was hit equally hard this year.

“All budgetary line items across the board were either frozen or reduced,” she said. “In addition, we cut co-curricular activities and relied on the gracious support of our PTOs and Mount Laurel Public Education Foundation to close the gap.”

Rath also said the district reduced positions through attrition, impacting the workload of existing employees, and significantly reduced staff professional development.