HomeCherry Hill NewsCherry Hill school board discusses preschool expansion and budget

Cherry Hill school board discusses preschool expansion and budget

Increased state aid helps maintains status quo

Board of education member Gina Winters gave an update on the preschool expansion grants available for the district at the recent March 14 board of education meeting that the district will be applying for in the summer.

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The grant is funded on a per-pupil basis and the district becomes eligible once it transitions from a half-day to a full-day preschool program, which it is in the process of doing according to the meeting minutes, and is a five-year roll out plan.

The minutes also note that the notice of the award would be in August, and implementation would be in October.

“It requires us to have money now to start that transition from half to full day without knowing for certain whether we will be able to receive the grants in the fall,” Winters said. “All indications I have said there’s a high level of certainty that we will, and that’s what I anticipate happening but that of course is a question mark.”

Business Administrator Lynn Shugars highlighted some of the ways that the preschool expansion would impact the budget when she went over total operational costs.

“A lot of the increases we’re seeing in this category pertain to special education student services, large increases in transportation including $750,000 for transportation for the preschool program,” Shugars said. 

Some of the challenges posed by the preschool program included having smaller buses with car seats in them for students who weigh less than 40 pounds, especially if more districts in the area begin implementing preschool programs.

Regarding the budget, Shugars also noted that there was a large increase in employee benefits due to adding additional positions and also eliminating contractual limits on restricting the amount of benefits first and second year employees can receive.

“That has been a problem for us as we are trying to recruit employees,” said Shugars.

While the district received $6.7 million more in state aid than the previous year and $6.9 million for debt service aid to help fund the bond principal and interest, Shugars noted that “a significant amount of the state aid went to maintaining the status quo of the budge,” as the budget had already been increased due to salary and benefits prior to adding any additional positions.

Thus, the district was still looking at a 1 percent tax increase for the year.

New in the budget include:

  • An additional special education classroom at Beck middle school (one teaching staff and two educational assistants)
  • Additional ESL teacher
  • Three math coaches
  • Special education colleague teacher
  • Math/Science supervisor
  • Contractual change in health benefits
  • Preschool program from half day to full day.

The estimated tax impact for the general fund is an increase in $52.41 per the average assessed home and the debt service fund (bond) impact is estimated to be $328.68 per the average assessed home, which is lower than the original amount estimated at $399.

The public hearing on the budget will be on April 25.

In other news;

  • Teachers who have served the district for 20, 25, 30, 35 and 45 years were recognized for their service
  • During committee reports, board member Dr. Ben Rood raised discussions about improved communication between the board and the community and how to address when people feel they are being bullied and it’s not a HIB.

The next board of education meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 28 at 6:30 p.m.

This article was updated on March 20, 2023.


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