Smaller budget gets school panel's nod
School Committee members voted last Thursday to approve a budget that had been trimmed to comply with requests by the Jamestown Town Council.
Joint meetings of the town council and the school committee over the last several months resulted in a request by the town council for the school committee to reduce its budget by $150,000. This reduction, according to town council members, would then allow the town council to achieve the 0 percent tax increase they have been attempting to achieve. The school committee approved the budget of $11,767,907 for fiscal year 2010 by a 4-0 vote. This total represents a $151,126 decrease in the budget that was previously approved by the committee on Feb. 23.
Finance Director Jane Littlefi eld said the smaller budget was achieved through lower than anticipated property insurance costs, a workman's compensation rate reduction combined with the issuance of workman's compensation dividends, a reduction in retiree health benefits, and a reduction in overall health insurance costs as a result of membership in the GHGRI health collaborative.
Director of Pupil Services Dr. Robert Fricklas reported that the school department has recently been informed that it is not eligible for the Title 1 Funds that were included in the governor's proposed state aid allocation to Jamestown. Littlefield reported that Jamestown is one of six districts notified by the state of increased cuts in professional development funding. This cut, previously reported as a $30,000 reduction, has now been increased to $65,000.
Committee members expressed concern over the assumption that state aid remain the same as in the current operating budget and said that further losses in state aid would necessitate further costcutting measures.
School Committee Chairperson Cathy Kaiser reiterated her previous statements regarding the uncertainty of the final state aid numbers. "We have asked the administration to compile a list of further cuts that can and will be enacted should it become necessary," Kaiser said. According to Kaiser, that list remains with the administrative team and will be released only when and if it becomes necessary.
In other business:
Kaiser announced two 4-0 votes taken in executive session: to approve a settlement agreement in a teacher suspension case and to approve the addition of 10 days to the superintendent's current contract.
Kaiser also recognized the signifi cant contributions of former school committee member Fred Clarke, who died on April 23.
A first draft version of the employee illegal harassment policy was reviewed. A first reading of this policy, as well as first readings of the student dating violence and sexual harassment policy, the kindergarten admission policy and a school parties and celebrations amendment to the student nutrition policy will be read at the May 7 workshop meeting.
Committee members approved Dr. Fricklas's recommendation that the school year 2009-2010 tuition rates for the pre-school program and the summer 2009 literacy and numeracy camp program remain unchanged. The committee also approved a fee exemption for students who participate in the summer program as peer models.
Committee member B.J. Whitehouse and Dr. Fricklas provided an update from the Teacher Evaluation Committee, indicating the committee, which includes four teachers, will have the new evaluation report ready for review by this summer.
During the principals' report, Kathy Almanzor and Carole Melucci said there was an excellent turnout for spring sports at Lawn School and outlined upcoming field trips, including the grade 6 trip to Alton Jones, the 7th and 8th grade trip to Boston to view the Volvo Challenge boats, and the planned 8th grade trip to Washington.
The next workshop meeting of the Jamestown School Committee will be held on Thursday, May 7. The next business meeting will be held on Thursday, May 21. All meetings are held in the Lawn School library at 7 p.m.