2011-02-03 / Front Page

Superintendent proposes $11.9-million budget for upcoming fiscal year

By Geoff Campbell

Superintendent Marcia Lukon of the Jamestown School Department presented the 2011-2012 proposed operating budget totaling $11.89 milllion at last week’s School Committee meeting.

Lukon began the Jan. 27 presentation by acknowledging the vital role that her administrative team has in the budgeting process and she provided a brief overview of the budget goals for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Given the economy,” Lukon said, “in the most cost-effective manner [the 2011-2012 budget will] maintain the present level of successful programming and provide needed services for our known student population.”

Lukon explained that there are five months between the start of the budget conversation and the implementation of the new budget beginning July 1. Among other factors, the numbers of students will depend both on civilian and military relocations before next August.

In addition to the overarching goals, Lukon added that the specific budgetary goals include supporting the Race to the Top goals and the Basic Education Program.

Lukon placed the budgetary aims in the context of the five-year strategic plan. The goals of the plan is to provide instruction and assessment so every student reaches higher levels of achievement, to elevate teaching and learning to a level where students can apply knowledge and skills to predictable and unpredictable real-world situations, to improve efficiency through the use of technology and to expand the language program for grades K-8.

“We have made less progress than we would like,” Lukon said, referring to the language goal. She noted that the goals are set to be achievable in a five-year time frame from 2009-2014.

Lukon described assumptions that were made in preparing the cost side of the budget. Health insurance is assumed to increase 15 percent, while dental could increase 4 percent.

The projections set heating-fuel costs at $3.25 per gallon – up from $3 – and the statewide transportation increase is assumed to increase 4 percent higher than the current budget.

Lukon said that the first draft of the proposed budget assumes the same number of military students that are currently in the schools.

The proposed budget represents a 2.4 percent increase over last year, resulting in a 1-percent change in the totals over two years, Lukon said.

Lukon believes the numbers to be comparatively reasonable and she added that the two areas seeing major increases were salaries and benefits – they will increase $125,605 and $184,295, respectively, which is the result of current contractual obligations.

She projected substantive decreases in special education ($52,235) and tuitions ($49,645).

Major costs in the budget include contractual obligations – including salaries and benefits – state and federal mandates and regulations, tuitions, transportation, and plant operations.

The proposed-budget expenses include $2.27 million for Lawn Avenue School, $2.37 million for Melrose Avenue School, $4.19 million system wide, and $3.05 million for out-of-district expenses.

Out-of-district costs include North Kingstown tuitions for general and special education students, out-of-district special needs student costs at both public and non-public schools and tuitions for seven students projected to attend charter schools.

Nearly two-thirds of the $3.05 million out-of-district costs is earmarked for the North Kingstown High School general education students for a cost of $2.03 million. Special education out-of-district costs – including North Kingstown – totals just over $700,000. The charter school costs are estimated at $79,030.

Enrollment overall is likely to remain relatively even, according to Lukon’s projections, with an increase of 10 students at Melrose Avenue and a decrease of seven students at Lawn Avenue. Lukon said that the decrease in numbers at Lawn Avenue is a reflection of the small fourth-grade class making its way through the system.

High school attendance is projected to decrease by six, resulting in 207 tuition-contracted students at North Kingstown for next year.

Lukon also broke down the special education budget numbers, which indicated a three-year rolling decrease from $2.22 million in 2010 to a projected $2.05 million in 2012.

Lukon named four key budget factors in setting next year’s special education costs: state and federal regulations, Individual Education Plan requirements, salaries and benefi ts for special education faculty and tuition and transportation costs for out-of-district special education students.

Lukon said that there are currently no out-of-district special education placements for students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.

“We are very proud of that,” she said, “to be able to meet their needs in the district.” For the post-middle school grades, the superintendent is estimating a drop off of one student, resulting in six out-of-district high school students.

The proposed capital budget is not included in the operating budget totals and is funded separately by the capital reserve. The projected capital budget total is $170,911, with $91,600 going into Lawn Avenue, $13,500 into Melrose Avenue, $44,900 for technology projects, and $20,911 to replace the 21-yearold maintenance van.

Projected revenues from the Jamestown General Fund are $11.46 million up from $11.18 million for the current year, representing a 2.56-percent increase.

Other revenue sources could include the general state aid funding, depending on the fiscal ability of the state to fund the formula.

Lukon explained that a best-case scenario regarding general state aid would be a $229,897 contribution, a decrease of $21,975 from this year. She added that a worse-case scenario would be no contribution from the state, resulting in the need to tap local reserve funds for that amount.

The shortfall exposure represents less than 2 percent of the total budget.

In summary, Lukon explained that the budget allows the district to accomplish its goals for the 2012 school year including funding improvements such as “the implementation of the new student information system, expansion of assessments, electronic data collection and analysis, the implementation of the new Rhode Island Evaluation System, study of new core standards, development of math curriculum and the expanded use of technology.”

Jane Littlefield, the director of finance, reviewed details contained in the School Committee’s budget notebooks. The committee asked clarifying questions and was encouraged to send the staff additional questions in advance of tonight’s meeting.

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