Cherry Hill School Board Faces Budget Challenges Amid Superintendent Appointment

The recent Cherry Hill School Board meeting highlighted the community’s support for the appointment of Dr. Kwame Morton as the new superintendent and delved into the complex challenges surrounding the school district’s budget. While the appointment of Dr. Morton drew praise for his leadership and vision, concerns were raised over significant state aid cuts and their impact on the district’s financial planning. The board addressed potential strategies to navigate the looming budget deficit, emphasizing the need for advocacy and community involvement to address these fiscal challenges.

Dr. Morton’s appointment as the new superintendent was met with widespread approval from community members, including the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association, PTA presidents, and a former school principal. They lauded his integrity, fairness, professionalism, and dedication to the students and staff. However, alongside this support, there were voices of concern regarding ADA compliance, teacher morale, school violence, and disparities in performance between schools. Some advocated for fresh leadership to address these issues, while others backed Dr. Morton, citing his understanding of the classroom and his past responsiveness.

At the heart of the meeting was the in-depth discussion of the district’s budget in light of a $6.9 million cut in state aid for the upcoming year. The board examined the fluctuating aid and equalized valuations for the district, noting the impact of these changes on budget planning. Various scenarios were outlined to address the budget deficit, including potential cuts, revenue adjustments, and the use of banked cap and its tax repercussions. Particular attention was given to maintaining staffing levels, considering retirements and vacancies, and the freeze in healthcare rates for the year.

The board also discussed the 2% tax levy cap, which restricts annual budget increases and raises concerns about long-term sustainability. A two-step budget process was revealed, with the initial submission to the county office due by March 20th and a public hearing scheduled for April 30th. The board considered potential non-personnel cuts and emphasized coordinated efforts with the community and various committees to advocate against proposed cuts.

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The preschool expansion’s impact on the general budget was another focal point, with discussions on fund allocation, busing costs, and the effects on capital reserve funds due to bond projects. The board stressed the importance of reviewing current vacancies and retirements to minimize staff reductions and potential programmatic changes that could affect staffing levels.

Community involvement was a recurring theme, with board members urging residents to participate in fair funding activities and to advocate for school funding at the state level. The state funding formula’s impact on at-risk students and the district’s budget was scrutinized, and there was a call to action for community members to voice their concerns to the state. Updates on bond construction projects were also shared.

Public comments touched on various topics, including the importance of community voice in the superintendent search, the impact of internet pornography on children, and concerns about state aid, budget proposals, and internal board dissension. Some speakers advocated for transparency and collaboration among board members to support the new leadership and address budgetary and educational challenges.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Superintendent:
Kwame Morton
School Board Officials:
Miriam Stern, Joel Mayer, Renee Cherfane, Kimberly Gallagher, Adam Greenbaum, Benjamin Rood, Sally Tong, Gina Winters

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