Deferring Cuts

Jamestown residents will vote on a proposed school budget in May that will not include a cut in current teacher positions or a tax increase.

On Tuesday, the Jamestown Public School District Board of Education met for the first time since the state budget was passed on March 28. Even though the final state budget did not increase the school district’s aid as much as administrators would have liked, the state’s budget did include a way for the district to save more than $600,000 in next year’s fiscal plan.

Through a new pension smoothing option for the teachers’ retirement system, the school district can defer 2.25 percent of what it would pay toward teachers’ pensions. Dale Weatherlow, Jamestown Public School District assistant superintendent for administration, said the district would eventually have to pay back what is deferred, but over a period of time. He said the district can opt out of the plan at any time, but would need to opt in this year to be included. The district also can pay back the deferred money at any time. The plan would defer $656,000 from next year’s pension payments.

Because of the pension smoothing plan and the additional use of $145,000 in appropriated fund balance, the district will not have to lay off any current teacher positions or raise taxes. After the board meeting, Joseph DiMaio, school district president, said deferring the pension payment is a better option than laying off teachers.

“I think it is a calculated gamble,” he said about the pension option.

Prior to discussing the pension smoothing and using more fund balance, Daniel Kathman, school district superintendent, discussed other options the school board could make, which included laying off teachers. Kathman said the district’s spending plan had a $1,577,613 budget gap. He said by not making equipment and vehicle purchases, eliminating teacher positions through attrition and cutting current special education and classroom instructors, the budget gap could be covered.

“This was not an easy task,” Kathman said after the meeting about covering the gap in the proposed budget.

However, with the $656,000 from the pension and the additional use of fund balance, Kathman told the board no teachers layoffs would be necessary. The board agreed to opt into the pension smoothing plan and to not cut any current active teacher positions. However, board members agreed to continue studying the budget to see what teacher positions eliminated through attrition they will fill or leave empty. The board will meet again at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 23.

“I’m happy not to compromise the instructional staff in the budget process,” Kathman said.

SUPERINTENDENT SELECTION PROCESS

There will be six committees participating in the selection process for the district’s next superintendent. There will be a community members/parents; faculty; support staff; principals and coordinators; central office administrators and high school student committees. David O’Rourke, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES district superintendent, made the recommendations for members of the adult committees. The committee members will participate in training April 17. Then committees will interview candidates May 6,7 and 9.