Earlier this afternoon (June 11, 2012), the leadership of the Jackson Public School District met with the Budget Committee of the Jackson City Council to begin dialogue regarding the District’s proposed budget for the 2012-2013 school year, which starts July 1. The City of Jackson traditionally will not complete its budget process and notify the public of the millage structure and its effect on the tax levy until September of each year.
General Overview and Focus
Each year, as required by law, the District presents to the City of Jackson a budget request, in dollars, and the City is required to set the appropriate millage and levy the taxes that will produce the amount requested by the District. The 2012-2013 school year will require support from taxes for an operating budget of approximately $69,200,000, plus a debt service budget of approximately $17,108,000. Significant steps have been taken this school year to streamline administrative costs and overhead that will have a positive impact on the District’s reserve fund this year and in future years. The District anticipates, however, that the 2012-2013 school year budget may require a millage increase to meet the debt service obligations for the $150,000,000 bonds for various school projects that were overwhelmingly approved by citizens of Jackson back in 2006. The millage assessed has not produced the amount of revenue required to make these debt payments. Instead, for several years, the additional funds required to meet debt service obligations were appropriated, in part, from the District’s reserve fund.
Background Regarding the $150 Million Referendum and Debt Service
In November 2006, a $150 million bond referendum was approved overwhelmingly (81%) by Jackson voters. In voting for the bond referendum, voters approved any required tax increase through 2028 to support several major projects. Millage for debt service purposes was expected to incrementally increase by up to 9 mills over this period. The projects included the following:
- Classroom additions for five elementary schools,
- An elementary/middle school complex (Bates/Cardozo) and Kirksey Middle School,
- Replacement of two aging middle schools – Peeples and Blackburn,
- Athletic fieldhouses at five high schools,
- $28 million in capital improvements to schools throughout the city, and
- A new elementary school.
Initiatives Taken by the Superintendent and Board of Trustees
As the state and nation endured a major recession soon after the passage of the bond referendum, the District used some of its reserves to pay the bond debt service rather than turning to taxpayers. Combined with significant decreases in state and federal funding to education, the District’s reserves have dipped lower than required by state law and District policy, which is 7%. This has placed the District in a position where we may not be able to respond adequately to unforeseen needs in our schools. To restore these reserves and maintain a balanced budget, the District has taken, and will continue to take, appropriate steps including following:
- “Right-sizing” the Administration and Central Office,
- Optimizing human and fiscal resources,
- Improving oversight of current resources,
- Exploring additional revenue streams, and
- Identifying internal savings.
District leadership is working collaboratively with Mayor Harvey Johnson, the City Council, and City financial officials to publicly present a plan to ensure that the $150 million bond referendum is retired as originally outlined to the citizens of Jackson. This plan will also allow the District to gradually restore its reserve fund in compliance with State regulations.
As always, the District appreciates the collaboration and strong support of parents, students, taxpayers, the elected leadership, the business community, and all other citizens as we strive to make our public education system a priority and an effective and successful medium to prepare the next generation of Americans.