2018-02-15 / Editorial

Tough calls ahead for school board

The Jamestown School Committee still has a few weeks left to determine its final 2018- 19 budget and, by the looks of it so far, the members have their work cut out for them.

The latest version is about 5 percent higher than the current year’s spending plan and that may not sit well with voters come the financial town meeting. In a dichotomy faced by many communities, Jamestown’s majority older population will determine the fate of its vastly minority youngest residents. In other words, the desires of the many may outweigh the desires of the few, especially when those many vote and the few do not.

The majority of the increase is tied to a spike in high school tuition costs (about $262,000) and special education expenditures (about $500,000). These mandatory expenses always have ebbed and flowed, and future years likely will see decreases in these costs so it’s possible this year’s budget is not a new normal but just an aberration.

In its first round of cuts, the committee deserves credit for going through the spending plan line-by-line and creatively whittling away enough savings to trim the increase about 20 percent from its starting point. Field trips, supplies, athletic and musical equipment all were sacrificed among almost $108,000 in savings.

Yet, more still likely needs to be done for this plan to get voters’ approval come June. The committee has intimated it is willing to continue to look closely at the plan and every expenditure no matter how small, and we applaud them for that diligence.

Both our schools are quality institutions that receive the highest marks from the state, so we’d hate to see anything eliminated that directly impacts the excellent and diverse education students receive.

We encourage the board to continue looking for ways to trim this proposal, even if that means eliminating or reducing some non-teaching staff personnel. While it’s never emotionally easy to trim employees, sometimes such a drastic measure is needed to get tough budgets approved.

This is especially true when the desires of the few are in the hands of the desires of the many.

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