A change must be made for good of students, teachers and system

By: Jeffery Head, JMCSS Board Member on Dec 01, 2015


Jeffery Head, JMCSS Board Member

 this year, we members of the school board have engaged in countless talks about Vision 2020. A recurring issue I think we can all say we have heard is a general misunderstanding for why this process must happen in the first place. We will soon find ourselves in a dire situation if we do not take steps now to improve the state of our system. I want to do my best to explain where we are financially and clarify just what will happen if we do not utilize the Vision 2020 process.

Our capacity in our schools is running, on average, between 65 to 75 percent. Some schools struggle academically, while others thrive. We are required to have a fund balance in our operating account of 3 percent. In a $100,000,000 budget, that number would be $3,000,000. The fund balance is a savings account. It is there in case of a “rainy day.”

If we work on our budget and our fund balance is below 3 percent, it is poor management of our money, and it throws up a red flag to the state. If we work on the budget and the fund balance is a negative number, then we must either increase our revenue or reduce our expenses.

This might seem simple, but I can assure you the government school budgets and finances are much more challenging than I have presented above. I believe we are very conservative with our budgeting. I believe we are funded at the proper level.

Presently, we are on track to end the year with approximately an $800,000 net loss. Each year, we budget a modest 2 percent increase in expenditures. We anticipate that our revenue will remain flat. Where do the dollars come from to make up the $800,000? Fund balance.

Current projections for 2016-17 are for a $2,700,000 loss. Again, this comes from the fund balance. Keep in mind the two percent expenditure increase and the flat income. By 2017-2018, current projections show a $4,700,000 loss.

Back at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, we had projections of a fund balance that would be negative in 2016-2017. We have been good stewards of the funds since those projections, but we must keep pressing forward. One expense area that we are very vulnerable in is health insurance. Health insurance costs have continued, and I believe will continue, to rise.

Basic capital needs are roughly $27,000,000 over the next five years. We typically are allotted approximately $2,500,000 to $2,700,000 per year. Capital needs are things like rooftops, HVACs, general maintenance of our buildings, transportation (bus replacement) and our 1:1 technology initiative so that every child can have a computer every day.

There are major projects that are not included in this large figure.

Why is it important to me that we get this as close to right as possible? I have skin in the game. I have a child in the JMCSS. It is not right that she has to attend a school where the roof leaks every time it rains. It is not right that she receives limited special education services because our resources are spread thin throughout our elementary schools. It’s not right that she has to sit and sweat in August because the HVAC has broken again, and we don’t have the dollars to replace the unit.

From the beginning, we knew Vision 2020 was going to be a tough pill to swallow, but to do nothing puts my child’s future at risk, as well as the future of all JMCSS students. That is simply not acceptable. We must improve educational outcomes for our children. It takes dollars to do this.

I want to express my thanks to all of our hardworking teachers. We are striving to do our very best by you. We want to give you the resources you need to teach. We want you not to worry about the physical condition of your school facility. You have your hands full by just doing the job you love to do: Educating our children. We want to make that easier for you.

Also, I want to say thank you to each and every community member who has given us input throughout this process. We are listening. I promise you that. The decisions we must make are difficult and cannot please everyone. That’s not possible. What we can do, and what I think we have done, is do our very best to listen and try to incorporate the wishes of the community. I would like to ask those of you who think that doing nothing is the answer, however, to reflect on the facts above. We must make a change for the good of our students, our teachers and our system.

Jeffery Head is a JMCSS board member. Published November 21, 2015 in The Jackson Sun.


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