A State Comptroller‘s report found that Jamestown Public Schools kept more money in fund balance and reserves than statutes allowed, thus keeping property taxes higher than necessary.
The report, which covered July 1, 2018 through April 14, 2022, found the Jamestown School Board and district officials did not properly manage fund balance and reserves and need to improve their budgeting practices and transparency with District residents and taxpayers.
The state comptroller’s office found that the district maintained the surplus fund balance in excess of the 4% statutory limit and annually appropriated fund balance that was not used to fund operations. As of June 30, 2021, the surplus fund balance exceeded the statutory limit by 7 percentage points or $6.3 million.
The report also said the district overestimated budgetary appropriations by an annual average of $6.5 million or 8%, which resulted in annual operating surpluses and increased fund balance by $9.2 million, or 72%, over the last three fiscal years.
The Comptroller’s office said the district could not demonstrate that the balances in five reserves, totaling approximately $8.7 million, were reasonable and lacked a sufficient reserve fund plan that detailed each reserve’s funding and use.
As a result of the findings, the State Comptroller’s office said “more real property taxes were levied then necessary to fund operations” in the Jamestown Public Schools District.
Recommendations made to correct the issue include adopting budgets with reasonable estimates for appropriations, as well as appropriating fund balance and reserve funds that will be used to fund operations.
Another recommendation is to develop and adopt a plan to reduce the surplus fund balance to comply with the statutory limit by reducing property taxes, funding one-time expenditures, funding needed reserves, or paying off debt.
Lastly, it was recommended the district reduce overfunded reserves in accordance with applicable statute.
According to a letter in the report from JPS Superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker, the district generally agreed with the Comptroller’s recommendations and indicated corrective actions would be taken.
The Jamestown Public Schools District has not raised property taxes in over 10 years.
The Jamestown School Board meets tonight at 6:00 p.m. in the Administrative Building on Martin Road. The regular session will be preceded by a public hearing at 5:45 p.m. on a resolution to allow videoconferencing of board of education meetings under extraordinary circumstances. The public is welcome to attend both the hearing and regular meeting in person.