JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown School Board will be meeting Wednesday to work on the 2015-16 budget.
Last week the school board learned from Superintendent Tim Mains that the district is currently facing a $4.9 million budget gap. That spending gap does not take into account an increase in state aid the district will likely receive from Albany and state officials have not given any details on how much Jamestown will likely receive. So until state lawmakers settle on a budget, the district is forced to work with this year’s state aid totals.
The lack of information from Albany this year has frustrated school officials, including School board president Joe DiMaio. He says today’s meeting won’t deal with identifying specific cuts, but will focus on prioritizing general areas within the budget.
“The meeting is taking place just to basically get our priorities set to determine what would happen depending on how much money we get [from the state], because there are places we could grow, but realistically we’re just going to talking about what our priorities are once we do get an indication of what our state aid will be,” DiMaio told WRFA following the board’s March 12 meeting.
Without any cuts or additions to next year’s budget, it would total just over $78.5 million. That’s a $2.77 million increase over the current year’s budget and is largely due to built-in cost increases – including BOCES, teachers and administration raises, and other contractual increases.
The budget gap could have been much higher, had it not been for 20 teachers having agreed to take an early retirement. Jamestown Teacher Association President Chris Reilly says that is one example of how members of the teachers union are working to help the district dig out of the budget hole. And Reilly says there may be other things JTA can also do to help the district out.
“I really can’t share [details] because they’re topics for negotiations which we keep confidential,” Reilly said. “I can say, in general, no option is off the table. We’ve discussed a variety of things. Certainly we’re willing to be reasonable during these times. But we need to be reasonable – we’re not going to give things away, so that’s really where we stand right now.”
Reilly says the JTA is also partnering with the southwestern Teachers Association in hosting a community forum and education rally focusing on challenges local districts are facing, primarily due to increased mandates from the state without a corresponding increase in aid. It will be held Thursday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern High School auditorium.
“We’re going to have multiple speakers, including Superintendent Mains and one of my members,” Reilly said. “That’s kind of our culminating event – to really rally the troops. Obviously we have a short time to do it but we’re hoping the community members come out and that everybody gets to hear the message and everybody gets behind the effort.”
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s Jamestown School board work session will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the School Board Room, located inside the Administration building on Martin Road. The meeting is open to the public.