Budget Being Crafted After State Aid Cuts

Jackson School BOE
Photo by Micromedia Publications

JACKSON – The School District will introduce its budget this week. This will be the first spending plan to be crafted under the school funding law of S2 which has reduced state aid in the district this year by $1.35 million.

During a recent school board meeting department heads and administrators presented their PowerPoint presentations to the board outlining where they would make reasonable cuts to their departments to help balance this year’s budget.

“This is the starting point tonight,” Superintendent Stephen Genco said.

The District’s curriculum and instruction budget features a decrease for the second year in a row going from $1,106,604 during the 2017-18 school year to $1,089,591 last year and $1,064,290 for 2019-20, a difference of $25,301.

The curriculum adoption for next year includes textbooks for English grades 9-12, classroom libraries for English grades 6-12, Promethean Boards for Social Studies grades 6-8, and Chromebook carts for grades 6-12 (13 carts for English and 16 for Social Studies).

The programmatic per pupil allocations included $167 for elementary school students, $171 for middle school students and $211 per high school students. Self-contained special education for elementary school students is $282, $352 for middle school students and $440 per high school student.

Looking at school enrollment changes at each of the district’s 10 schools, the Crawford Rodriguez School currently has 635 students which is projected to increase to 683 next year.

The Elms elementary school is projected to decrease from 646 to 616 students while the Holman School will grow from 551 to 561.

The Johnson School will see a rise in pupils from 463 to 472 while the Rosenauer school will see a decrease going from 313 to 299.

Jackson School District Director of Transportation Susan Spence speaks to members of the School Board about the needs and challenges of her department during a recent school board meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)
Jackson School District Director of Transportation Susan Spence speaks to members of the School Board about the needs and challenges of her department during a recent school board meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Students at the Switlik School will see an increase from 750 to 769 and the Goetz School will see a decrease from 1,135 to 1,096. The McAuliffe School is expected to remain at its current 851 students while both high schools will see a decrease in their pupil population.

Jackson Liberty High School currently has 1,180 students and is projected to have 1,128 next year while Memorial High School will see a decrease from 1,621 to 1,593.

The budgets by school account will see a $82,088 increase of $1,506,409 to $1,588,497.

Assistant superintendent Daniel Baginski noted a decrease in the district’s technology budget of $231,825. That budget totaled $1,227,778 during the 2017-18 school year rising to $1,444,462 during the 2018-19 school year and dropping to $1,212,637 next year.

The decrease primarily came from purchased professional services/data processing which dropped from $1,175,242 to $826,418.

Susan Spence, the district’s director of transportation was also among those who provided a report during the evening.

“Our mechanics are very well trained and our assistants are able to do more than what is required for them to do,” Spence said.

School Board member Thomas Colucci asked if the department could utilize any of the township garages noting the department’s current problem of space at its facility. The district has been exploring a satellite facility project to address that problem.

“On paper that looks like it would work but it is not really a viable option,” Spence said.

Another problem plaguing the department is the need for additional bus drivers. It is a problem not unique to Jackson.

Spence said that “we are getting more drivers but they have to be trained. That takes time.”

She added that the department is looking at each of its buses and making necessary repairs and recommendations for any needed bus replacements.

“I’ve never seen a bus last for 20 years,” Spence said. The department has 115 54-passenger vehicles. That figure would rise by one next year. Her presentation noted that the department has 42 vans and one car. The number of vans would increase to 46 next year.

Mileage has increased from 1,327,561 during the 2016-17 school year to 1,750,864 in 2017-18. Fuel used during the 2017-18 school year totaled 265,561 gallons which saw a projected increase next year to 362,500. The estimated miles for 2019-20 is 363,000.

“What do you attribute the higher mileage to,” Colucci asked Spence.

Spence said the district has seen an increase of special needs students who are requiring transportation in and out of district. “We previously had six or seven on a van and now we have 17.”

Spence added that drivers are also learning the best routes for those outside Jackson. “It is growing pains and a learning curve. The furthest travel is six miles into Lakewood in a very congested area.”

“Safety is still our number one priority. We want our children on a safe bus,” Spence said.