Mt. Laurel Board of Education adopts 2014–15 budget

The Mt. Laurel Board of Education adopted a 2014–15 local school budget at last night’s meeting with a slight tax increase for the average homeowner.

Mt. Laurel residents with an average assessed home of $236,952 can expect a $14 increase on their local school tax bill. The school district is expected to bring in a little more than $59 million in local tax levy.

The budget did not include any cuts or layoffs. Superintendent Antoinette Rath said developing the budget has been a balance between maintaining programs and keeping taxes at a reasonable rate.

“We’re committed to our programs and services, at a cost that is fiscally responsible for our taxpayers,” she said.

The district received a slight increase in state aid this year to $4.3 million. However, assistant superintendent for business Robert Wachter said the figure is still far behind the $5.8 million the district received during the 2009–10 school year.

Included in the budget were a number of capital projects, including window, door and locker replacement at Harrington Middle School, a hot water heater and tank replacement at Hartford School and a new gym and cafeteria divider at Larchmont Elementary School.

“These are all things that are necessary, and if you put them by the wayside, they become a bigger issue down the road,” Rath said.

The district also budgeted a number of security enhancements for next year. An exterior lighting project is planned to keep the schools secure after dark. In addition, a panic button and strobe light project is expected to get underway.

Rath explained the panic button project is a feature very few school districts have implemented so far. She said it would be beneficial to notifying the police quickly in case of an emergency.

“There will at least be a panic button in the school’s main office,” Rath said. “Very discreetly, someone can hit the panic button and inform the authorities.”

Wachter said the district is planning to go out to bid on the capital projects in the coming weeks so most of them can be completed during summer break.

The school district is also making changes in the curriculum department, adding STEM materials and supplies for the classes at the middle school. The district is also revising its report cards to align with the Common Core.

In other news:

• Rath told the board the extended kindergarten program will officially be launched next fall. All the district’s elementary schools were able to meet their minimum enrollment requirement. Rath said registration is still open for the program at all schools.

• Wachter said the school district unveiled LunchTime, its new lunch management system, prior to spring break. He reported the transition has been smooth and parents are happy with the change.

• One of the STEM SeaPerch teams from Harrington Middle Schools is heading to a national event in Mississippi after winning a competition at Rowan University during the weekend of April 26. The national competition will take place at the University of Southern Mississippi from May 16 to 18.

• The next Mt. Laurel Board of Education meeting is a work session on May 20 at 7:30 p.m in the Hattie Britt Administration Building. The next action meeting will be at Hartford School on May 27 at 7:30 p.m.