JPS Looks To Close Budget Gap

Expenditure increases and revenue decreases have left the Jamestown Board of Education with a $4.6 million budget gap to close.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Jamestown Board of Education, Daniel Kathman, school superintendent, mapped out strategies to hopefully bring the 2013-14 budget into the black.

The school system is facing a cutback in state aid to the tune of $3,882,190, as well as an expenditure increase – mostly due to the rising cost of employee benefits, totaling $935,435.

Kathman introduced a series of proposed strategies which, along with some good fortune, should help to close the budget deficit.

“We’re hoping to (close the gap) by tapping into our rainy day fund a little more than we’d like to,” said Kathman. “We’ve had a separate debt service reserve fund that we’ve built up for these kinds of circumstances specifically. We’re recommending to the board that we tap that fund completely to help resolve the gap. There’s some savings we can realize, also, by simply delaying for a few months our borrowing for the next round of capital projects and purchasing of new school busses. By simply delaying (to borrow) after July 1, we can postpone some of those debt payments until the following year when we have an expectation that the needed revenue will be there.”

The first of the proposed strategies is to increase the appropriated fund balance by $500,000, bringing it up to $3,275,000 from the usual $2,775,000. This increase needs to pass a vote, however Kathman said he is confident the board will approve the increase.

The second proposed strategy is to exhaust a debt service reserve fund of $1,552,924. Finally, the third strategy discussed was to postpone borrowing an amount of $586,000 until after July 1. Kathman believes that, at that point, the necessary revenue will be available to satisfy that debt.

If all three strategies are pursued, the board is still left with a gap of roughly $1.9 million. However, Kathman is optimistic, as the New York state budget negotiations have left $50 million worth of performance grants, $75 million worth of reform grants, and a one-year-only $203 million fiscal stabilization fund on the table. While no one on the board is certain how the state will use this money, Kathman said it would be “very nice” if the school was granted an additional $1.9 million in aid.

“It’s been a complete emotional roller-coaster ride,” said Kathman. “Two weeks ago, it looked like we were not going to get any additional money. However, that has changed, and we’re encouraged that there will be some additional revenues – hopefully a lot. We’ve narrowed our gap down to $1.9 million, so it would be absolutely lovely if we got a $1.9 million increase. The only smart thing to do, knowing that Albany will decide early on the budget is to wait for that, then we can be very precise about what other strategies we recommend.”

The public hearing for the Jamestown budget will be held on May 14 at Persell school, with the vote occurring on May 21.