JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown School Board is inching closer to completing a budget for next school year, but there’s still some work left to be done.
On Wednesday the school board spent over two and a half hours reviewing the tentative $77.6 million budget that was presented by Superintendent Tim Mains on April 7.
The meeting focused primarily on five budget items – staff reductions, professional development, athletics, fund balance and taxes. The tentative budget calls for 16 positions being cut primarily through attrition, although there is also the potential for four layoffs.
All five board members who were at the meeting agreed that the district should do what it can do prevent any layoffs from happening. As a result, they asked Mains to come back with a budget that cuts funding in professional development – along with several other areas – in order to stop the layoffs from happening. That would mean Mains will have to cut an estimated $200,000 from other areas in order to bring back the four positions.
Following the meeting, School Board President Joe DiMaio said it’s obvious the board wants to save as many jobs as possible, although each board member has a slightly different opinion on how to do that.
“When you have a board of education, you have people that come from different [backgrounds] and that’s the good thing about it. It sometimes makes it more difficult, but it’s also a good thing,” said DiMaio. “I realize it makes it tougher on Tim and the rest of his administrative staff, but at the same time it’s important for them to know what’s important for us.”
The largest line item likely to see a cut is professional development – which had more than $400,000 devoted to it in the initial budget presentation.
Because Jamestown is considered a Focus district by the state, Mains said it’s crucial that the district invest in professional development in order to not only bring up student performance in the coming years, but also to ensure all teachers in the district are better equipped to deal with a changing education climate.
“Traditionally, teachers did a lot of training up front, they got good at their craft and then the just kept delivering and delivering. And that’s the old model,” Mains explained. “The new model is, in the world outside of schools, things are changing all the time… so if we’re going to adjust as a system to be able to prepare our kids for that very volatile world that their about to graduate and move into, then we need to be stepping up our game. I believe that change is going to be the constant for education – for us and for schools across the country.”
As for bringing back four positions, Mains said he’s already found a way to save two jobs by providing two of individuals with a Long Term Substitution position, adding that he’ll do his best to find a way to protect the two other positions.
“I felt that I’ve already cut the four [positions] down to two,” Mains said. “If it’s a question of trying to avoid two more, I’ve already begun to anticipate that. And so I believe I can come up with an adjustment, I just hope that the board can be comfortable with it.”
Mains would not publicly say which of the four positions were facing layoffs – due to confidentiality reasons and because the budget has not yet been finalized.
As part of the budget discussions, Jamestown Athletic Director Ben Drake delivered a presentation regarding the costs associated with running extra curricular athletics. In addition, Jessie Joy – Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessments – gave a presentation on the benefits of Professional Development, along with two other staff members.
In addition to DiMaio, board members Paul Abbott, Dan Johnson, Shelly Leathers and Laurel Lucas were also in attendance. Tom Pope and Pat Slagle were absent, although Mains said each passed along their thoughts on the budget prior to the start of Wednesday’s meeting. With the exception of Pope, all other board members have said they are comfortable with a slight tax increase of 1.5 percent – which they feel is necessary in order to help prevent any more programming or position cuts.
Mains will return with a revised budget at the board’s next meeting on April 21. It has until April 26 to approve a spending plan and put it before a public vote.
More information and comments regarding the budget will be available during this week’s Community Matters program, which airs at 6 p.m Thursdays / noon Sundays on WRFA.