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Upcoming School Budget Topic at Mt. Ephraim School Board Meeting

By Leigh Anne Hubbs

Gloucester City News

During February’s Mount Ephraim Board of Education meeting, led by new Board President Carl Ingram, members reviewed the 2013-14 draft budget and will vote on it at next month’s meeting.

The budget includes the creation of a third kindergarten class due to increased enrollment, which is expected to rise even higher over the summer.

Although the full-day program has attracted school choice parents from districts that only offer half-day kindergarten, School Board members said the third class would still be necessary even without the school choice students.

Also included in the budget is a plan to hire four new teachers, which Superintendent Leslie Koller said is something she would like to see the Board keep as part of the final budget.

Recent retirements have helped in this area because new teachers start at $48,111/year, which is much lower than what the retired teachers were earning.

Business Administrator Melissa Raywood said other factors that have helped next year’s budget are school choice revenue, which was more than $200,000 this year, an increase in ratables, and a reduction in the number of Mount Ephraim students attending Audubon High School due to attending vocational school or leaving the area.

Currently, Audubon charges more than $13,000 for each regular education high school student that Mount Ephraim sends there.

The proposed budget includes a reduction in paraprofessionals’ hours from 6 down to 5.5 hours per day, Raywood said.

Also, two less cafeteria workers will be needed at Kershaw due to schedule changes – but there will not be a reduction in the number of staff supervising the students during lunch.

The cost for employee benefits is expected to increase 18 percent per a quote from the District’s insurance broker.

Raywood said this increase is mostly due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Board Member Nicholas Salamone stated that everyone is affected by Obamacare and will pay for it through taxes even if they do not pay for their benefits.

The District has already experienced benefit cost increases due to the section of the Act that allows an employee to keep their children on their health insurance plan until that “child” reaches age 26, he said.

Board members will discuss and vote on the budget on March 4, before it is due to the County on March 7.

Raywood said that the budget can be modified even after it is submitted to the County. She expects state aid figures at the end of this month and federal aid figures this summer.

In other news Robin Malinowski of the Community Relations Committee announced that at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26, the Mount Ephraim Basketball League will play three championship playoff games.

Mount Ephraim residents interested in using school district property for fundraisers, meetings, etc. must fill out a Use of Facilities form; non-residents may use the facilities as well for a fee.

Enrollment in the Shining Star Program (self-funding before and after school care) is steadily increasing to its pre-recession numbers, which now allows for the reinstatement of a third aide position.

Upcoming Field Trips include; pre-k to Discovery Museum on May 15; kindergarten to Philadelphia Zoo on May 17; fifth grade to Historic Philadelphia on May 8; sixth grade to Medieval Times on April 19; and the fifth to eighth grade band/music field trip to Sahara Sam’s Oasis Indoor Waterpark on May 31.

Mary Bray Student of the Month winners for January were: 1st grade Gary Gable, 2nd grade Kristin Jusiak, 3rd grade Robert Yager and 4th grade Olivia Malinowski.

For Kershaw it was decided to recognize the Honors Band members: 5th grade Mason Fowler, Matthew King and Andrew Stopper; 6th grade Julianne Brown, Mark Colavito, Gabrielle Crain, Brianna Hamilton, Kevin Mendez and Robert Snyder.

The next School Board meeting will be on Monday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. in Kershaw’s Media Center.