On Tuesday, May 19th, Jamestown residents will vote on a proposed budget totaling $77,601,103 for the 2015-16 school year. The proposed budget reflects best efforts to close a gap that started at $5.2 million. Despite receiving about a $3 million increase in state aid, a $2.2 million gap remained. This gap was then closed through a combination of four actions. First is the net reduction of 16 positions through attrition; the budget calls for no staff layoffs. Second is a further reduction of expenditures (including cuts to staff development) totaling about $200,000. Third, the budget proposes a modest tax increase of 1.5%, the first increase in five years, and fourth, it presumes the use of $1 million from our fund balance (plus the taking close to $800,000 from our reserves). As in past years, arriving at this proposed budget was not easy. Building a school budget and delivering it for approval involves significant consideration and compromise. The District developed the spending plan during multiple work sessions with the JPS Board of Education. The Board collaborated with District administrators to propose a 2015-16 budget that protects the quality programming that has become a JPS trademark.
There are two expenditure components to every school budget – operating expenses and capital expenses. The capital portion of the JPS budget contains the principal and interest needed to cover the accumulated costs for our ongoing construction projects. Although it is increasing 1.08%, it is funded completely through NYS. Our district receives 98% reimbursement from state aid on building projects and 2% from EXCEL aid. Therefore, JPS is fully reimbursed for its capital costs. The operating expenses reflect a modest increase of 1.34%, due largely to rising fixed costs that the District must accommodate, including: contractual pay increases, new retirement obligations, escalating expenses in our special education budget, rising health benefit costs, and NYS mandates. The capital and operating expenses combined reflect an overall year-to-year budget increase of 2.42%.
“It has been another challenging budget year for JPS,” said Superintendent Tim O. Mains. “Like many high-needs districts across the state, Jamestown struggles due to inequitable funding from the state. Yet, despite funding issues, I believe the proposed budget still addresses the District’s, and certainly, our community’s prime focus, which is always ensuring the best education for our children.”
“We have been careful to construct a budget that will allow us to implement our new Strategic Plan, which the Board adopted last fall.” Superintendent Mains observed.
If a proposed budget is defeated at the polls, school districts in New York have three options: 1) put the same budget back before the voters, 2) place a revised plan up for a revote, or 3) adopt a contingency budget. A contingency budget is required if the voters twice reject the district’s proposed budgets. It is important for the public to understand that for Jamestown, a contingency budget would require the District to make significant additional cuts in staff and/or programming to balance its 2015-16 budget. “We won’t be able to do that,” observed Superintendent Mains, “without doing damage to the school district as we know it.”
The proposed 2015-16 Popular Budget will be available beginning on May 5th on the JPS website (www.jamestownpublicschools.org) or at the Superintendent’s Office at 197 Martin Road. A public hearing on the 2015-16 JPS Budget will be held on Tuesday, May 12th at 7 p.m. in the Persell Middle School Auditorium. The public is encouraged to attend. Registered voters are also encouraged to vote in the May 19th budget vote held at Jefferson Middle School, Lincoln Elementary School and Washington Middle School from noon to 9 p.m. Your voice matters!