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Jefferson school planning difficult without final state budget
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Traditionally, school boards use annual retreats as an opportunity to make plans for the following school year and beyond.

This year, the Jefferson City Schools System Board of Education acknowledged that planning with incomplete information is difficult.

“Until we get our state (budget) allotment, a lot of this will just be an educated guess,” said Superintendent John Jackson during Friday’s retreat meeting. “The reality of the situation is that we have that to deal with. We don’t need to dance around that.”

During Friday’s session, the group received an update on the system’s current financial state.

“When we built this (fiscal) year’s budget, we planned in the budget to carry over about a half million dollars (from fiscal year 2009) to make a balanced budget. The good news is that we will only need about $131,000 of that,” said Kim Navas, school system financial officer. “Your administration and leadership has really helped us manage this budget crisis.”

Systemwide savings came in the form of state mandated furlough days, lower utility bills and reduced operating costs, Navas said.

Although the system is doing OK financially, potential troubles aren’t too far off, officials warned.

This year, about $476,000 in salaries are being paid with federal stimulus funds. That money won’t be available after next fiscal year, so the system will have to figure out how to pay those costs from its general fund.

“If we look past 2011, that’s when decisions are going to be even more difficult to make,” Navas said. “Fiscal year 2012 will be the real year of questions. That’s when things will become a real balancing act.”

According to Navas, 2012 will be the year that all existing sources of federal stimulus funds will run out.

In order to save costs, some school systems in the state have considered reducing the school week to four days, but at a potential cost savings of $47,000, Navas advised that such a move “wouldn’t be worth it” in Jefferson.

Areas of possible cost savings in Jefferson could include reducing or eliminating employer paid health insurance premiums or increasing teacher-pupil ratios. Currently, teacher-pupil ratios are below state maximums from kindergarten through 12th-grade by at least two students.