2006-11-09 / Front Page

School Committee looking at budget for FY 2008

By Donna K. Drago

At its Nov. 2 meeting, the School Committee had an early discussion of items it wanted to clarify or make decisions about before going into budget sessions that culminate with the school giving the Town Council its budget by March 1, 2007.

Among the items committee members earmarked for further discussion were how to handle year-end reserve funds and how much to keep on hand at any given time.

The matter was brought up by the Town Council during the last budget go-rounds, but not yet finalized.

Reserve funds are typically what is leftover in the school budget after everything has been expended in a given year. Jamestown has used portions of the funds to finance capital projects in recent years.

Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser told the board that her research showed that there is no set formula for how much school districts should keep in an emergency fund, and that other towns are also seeking information from fellow school boards on the same issue.

William "Bucky" Brennan, a member of the School Committee, asked school Business Manager Maria Alfred what the current amount was in the reserve account. Alfred said about "4 to 5 percent of last year's budget" was currently in the pot, but she would not have an exact dollar amount until after the annual audit, scheduled for December.

Kaiser said that the school board should decide "where we are going" in coming weeks before working on a specific budget.

School Superintendent Robert Power said it would be wise for the school board to look at last year's budget against actual expenditures and then "make budget goals" for fiscal year 2008.

Power said the committee would identify items they wanted included, "and then we build the budget, putting the school committee goals in there."

The committee members discussed a new piece of legislation, passed by the state General Assembly last year, which will put even more severe restrictions on them in coming years.

Where the state tax cap was 5.5 percent for the past several years, next year it will be 5.25 percent, and then drop one-half percent each year until it reaches 4 percent.

The new law applies to both school and town budgets, where it previously applied only to the combined budget.

Brennan, who attended a presentation on the new legislation, said the more restrictive figure ensures "a lot more work for us."

In other business, the School Committee:

+ Heard from Principal Kathy Almanzor that the current small enrollment in kindergarten will likely result in cutting a first-grade classroom next year.

+ Accepted the resignation of longtime secretary Kate Shuhy.

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