Mt. Laurel BOE passes tentative budget, new board member sworn in
At its March 15 meeting, the Mt. Laurel Board of Education approved the tentative 2016–2017 school year budget.
As with 2014–2015 and 2015–2016 school year budgets, the 2016–2017 budget includes a tax levy increase of 2 percent. Mt. Laurel residents with a home assessed at the average value of $237,600 would see a $54.65 increase next year for their local K-8 school taxes.
Before the board officially approved the tentative budget, interim superintendent Sharon Vitella outlined what she called a few of the “big ticket” items included this year.
“We are moving forward slowly in all of our areas, and I think we’re making some very strategic decisions both for the district, as far as buildings and keeping things updated, and also for curriculum and instruction,” Vitella said.
One curriculum-related item included in the tentative budget is materials for the Next Generation Science Standards for grades six to eight. The NGSS are the set of common science standards that multiple states have adopted that will go into effect in September.
Another curriculum item is an update to the district’s Math Investigations program for grades two to five. Vitella said the program hasn’t been updated in the district in a number of years, but the third edition of the program has been released and so the district would upgrade as well.
Vitella said the program can be expensive, and the district will update the program for other grades in future budget cycles.
The district will also invest in reading level and comprehension assessments, Science Technology Engineering Math materials and materials for the district’s Journey’s literacy program.
Turning toward technology upgrades, Vitella said the district would invest in additional Chromebook laptops as the price continues to drop, and the district will work toward installing projectors in the ceilings of classrooms and the teachers that didn’t have their computers upgraded with the last budget get those upgrades with this budget.
Regarding capital improvements in the tentative budget, school business administrator Robert Wachter Jr. said he was happy to report the district was still able to move forward with several projects. Projects he outlined include replacing the roof of Hartford School, replacing carpet with tile at Springville School, HVAC upgrades at Larchmont, Hartford and Harrington schools, a ground drainage project in front of Springville School and a building systems evaluation for the district.
“Our buildings are starting to get a little older, and we’re going to do a complete evaluation … from HVAC systems, to fire alarms, to roofs,” Wachter said.
Regarding transportation upgrades, Wachter said the district would purchases two 54-passenger buses and one 25-passenger wheelchair conversion wagon. Wachter said from time to time, the district is required to utilize a wheelchair bus, but when it is not, that bus will convert into a regular transportation vehicle.
Wachter also noted the district would receive an additional $90,581 in state aid this year, bringing the district’s total to $4.4 million. However, Wachter asked the board to remember that the total figure was still down from the nearly $5.8 million in state aid the district received in 2009–2010 before districts across the state saw their aid reduced.
Wachter said at its next meeting, the board should be approving the date for public hearing and final adoption of the budget for April 26.
In other news:
Leigh Ann Erlanger was sworn-in to the board to fill the unexpired term of board member Ronald Frey, who resigned from the board in February for health reasons.
The members of the board chose Erlanger after interviewing a total of three applicants at special meeting on March 10.
Erlanger is employed at the Hand Surgery and Rehabilitation Center in Marlton, and has previously served as a board member on the Springville Parent-Teacher Organization while her children were in the district.