Home Marlton News Board focuses on 2024 budget and free kindergarten

Board focuses on 2024 budget and free kindergarten

Evesham district will submit grant application for the preschool to the state

Jonathan Diaz/The Sun

Evesham Superintendent Dr. Justin Smith recently spoke with The Sun about the school district’s expectations this year, including a 2024-‘25 school budget with state-aid reductions and a free, full-day kindergarten program.

Smith explained that a major priority for the district is preparing – and continually revising – its budget, which will be in its seventh year of aid reductions.

”The budget is really a 12-month process,” he explained. “As we develop any single year’s budget, the considerations that go into the list of things we look at, some of those things can be a jumping off point for the next year’s budget.”

Evesham Township is an S2 district, which is the case for roughly one third of districts in the state. S2 modifies school funding law to eliminate adjustment aid and decrease state-aid growth. The first budget presentation for the year will take place in March; an exact date has yet to be determined.

”We will have meetings with district staff prior to that,” Smith said. “Basically, the first two weeks of March will be meeting with staff only in the schools to talk through the changes and how they will be impacted due to the 2024 through 2025 budget.

”Having to make cuts is forced on (the district) by the loss of state aid,” the superintendent added. “We do try to turn those forced challenges into opportunities for improvement as much as possible.”

The Evesham district is still working on a budget. The first six years of state-aid reduction did not cause cuts to educational programs, an accomplishment Smith viewed as “a semi-miracle.”

”I wouldn’t have predicted that at the start of that process,” he acknowledged. “The reason I say that is because we steer by our mission of serving students in all we do, including the development of our budget. We’ve staved off cutting any programs as long as we could, which got us to this point now.”

Smith added that the district will likely need to make crucial cuts in order to accommodate the aid loss.

“It’s hard to imagine (having no cuts to programs) after this budget,” he related. “With (the 2023-‘24) budget, we really reached a point where we almost had to cut a program.”

The district is also focused on its tuition-free, full-day kindergarten. The township added a question about the idea on the ballot in November’s election and got 6,807 yes votes and 5,413 no votes, allowing the district to implement the program.

”Our next step is working on achieving tuition-free preschool here in Evesham,” Smith noted. “All of the districts surrounding us have already received approval from the state of their preschool grant applications, and have either implemented tuition-free preschool or are in process of doing so.”

Evesham will work on its preschool state grant application at the end of the school year and through the summer, then submit it to the state.

”It’s premature right now to say more about (the preschool application), only because we still have to go through the application process to really speak in more detail about that,” Smith said.

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