Budget Shortfall endangers staff and programs

By Chloe Drescher and Bora Nanaj

Community Manager and Staff Writer

The Jamesville-DeWitt School District is in financial trouble once again. On Monday, March 3, the Board of Education came together with students, parents and staff to discuss the budget development for the 2014-15 school year, which could include reductions in several programs. The Board of Education was expecting an increase in state aid for the district for the 2014-2015 school year. Instead, the current proposal for the state aid allocates for $210,000 less than the amount received for the 2013-2014 school year. “We have challenges this year,” said Superintendent Dr. Alice Kendrick “we don’t have enough revenue to support everything we have at J-D right now.”

The proposed expense plan exceeds projected revenue by $540,000. The Board of Education has limited options when it comes to the budget shortfall. They can either use reserves, cut expenses, increase the tax levy or a combination of the three. The school board always uses some reserves but doesn’t want to use too many in a single year. In a powerpoint that Dr. Kendrick showed during the board of education meeting, the list of potential expense reductions included the elementary instrument program, 5-12 counseling staff, middle school music, the Chinese program, BOCES summer school, new technology purchases, library aids, middle school clerical positions, middle school intramurals and varsity assistant coaching positions.

The final option that the school board has is increasing taxes. However, this is a problem of it’s own. A tax cap of 2.32% has been placed on the school district which makes it more challenging to increase taxes. “We need to analyze tax rates and see what taxpayers will be willing to approve,” said Dr. Kendrick.

However, the budget for the 2014-2015 school year has not yet been finalized. Dr. Kendrick has only laid out the difficulty that the district is facing with a model of what might happen if we don’t get the money that we are supposed to from the state. “The Board of Education wants to wait and see what kind of budget we get from Albany,” said Principal Paul Gasparini. “In the meantime, the board is calling on the community to get the word out to residents to advocate to the assembly and senator men about enacting a budget that has enough money to fund schools for what they need,” said Mr. Gasparini. “Hopefully we can adopt a budget that is pro-student in early April,” he added.

There is no plan to reduce the instructional staff in the district. “In the proposed model (the cuts) included teacher support positions in the elementary and middle school, and clerical positions which impact our building, and counselors,” said Mr. Gasparini. Although the budget is not set in stone, there has been talk about a few positions at J-D that could be in danger, including Guidance Office Secretary Renee Palladino and Student Counselor Will Hartley.

There are about six clerical employees at the middle school and four at the high school supporting around the same number of students. Due to the potential cuts in clerical positions, a secretary’s position at the middle school could be in danger. “In terms of seniority, I am the last person hired in my position, so they could cut a clerical position at the middle school and then that person will come to the high school and take over my job,” said Mrs. Palladino. During the board meeting, many students and staff spoke about the impact that Mrs. Palladino had on the J-D community. “It was humbling, and I truly think that some of the board members took it to heart,” said Mrs. Palladino. “I think they are really going to sit down and consider that there is more to the school than textbooks, desks and computers.” Ms. Palladino has two children in the district and is extremely invested as a parent. “I hope I never have to leave the district. I hope to retire here,” said Mrs. Palladino.  

As for Mr. Hartley, this isn’t the first time his job has been jeopardized during a budget shortfall.  He was in the same position in 2011. The board decided to keep Mr. Hartley’s job in 2011 because it’s a safety position. Mr. Harley spends a lot of his time talking to and helping students in dangerous and difficult situations. During the meeting, members of the community came out and spoke on his behalf. “At the meeting I felt supported. I think it was good for the board and Dr. Kendrick to see there was support for not only my position, but for other important programs and people in the district. The board needs to see that,” said Mr. Hartley. “I’m hopeful that the board will do their best to try and keep as many programs as possible,” he added.

To find a list of legislatures that represent the districts of Jamesville-DeWitt, an Advocacy Letter template or for more information, on what you can do to help, visit http://www.jamesvilledewitt.org/teacherpage.cfm?teacher=1154.