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Morris Jeff looks to new site, plans to ramp up savings with new budget

The Morris Jeff board of directors discussed expanded operations and a projected year-end surplus this time next year at its 2012-13 budget hearing on May 24.

Principal Patricia Perkins is anticipating surpluses for the next two years as the school rebuilds its reserve fund and prepares to move to the former Fisk-Howard site on Rendon Street in 2014-15.  With $3,045,960 in revenues and $2,967,110 in expenses projected for 2012-13, next year’s budget is predicted to produce a $78,850 surplus.

The school will add three full-time teachers, a special-education teacher and a nurse to its roster next year.  Alongside these additions, Perkins is filling vacancies with more highly qualified teachers than before.  These staff improvements will bring about a 21 percent increase in overall salaries, with all salaries increasing roughly 3 percent to account for rising cost of living. With salaries and benefits comprising 70.2 percent of the budget, the school is meeting the state’s benchmark of budgeting at least 70 percent toward instruction.

More than three-quarters of the school’s revenues will come from the state’s Minimum Foundation Program, which provides money on a per-pupil basis for students in kindergarten and above. Director of Finance and Operations Sherah Leboeuf estimated that the school will receive roughly $8,500 for each of its 275 students above pre-kindergarten.

The school will receive far less for its youngest students, however.  Per pupil funding for pre-kindergarten students will be $4,578, barely enough to cover the salaries and benefits necessary to educate these children.

The school’s Public Charter School Program start-up money will run out in July. Perkins said that the 77 percent drop in the “materials and supplies” reflects the current year’s purchase of long-term goods such as furniture and computers, which don’t need to be bought each year.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Melissa Jagers questioned the budget’s $50,000 fund-raising goal, given that the school failed to hit that mark this year. Perkins responded that the community simply needs “to push harder to get what our goal is.”

The afterschool Explorers program accounts for a majority of the 22 percent increase in other revenues from local sources, but that the program is subsidized from money elsewhere in the school’s budget to meet expenses.

Board member Jennifer Weishaupt urged the board to push the Explorers program toward financial self sufficiency.  Weishaupt wondered whether a sliding scale, in which the level of subsidy is based on the student’s financial need, would be preferable to the current system which subsidizes all participation. The board will return to the matter at a later time.

The board discussed at length the change in budgeting practices for food services management as implemented by the Recovery School District.  On first glance, both revenues and expenses for the service appear to have skyrocketed, but the leaps are a byproduct of a change in documentation and will not result in any real change in food services, board members said.

Still, the board plans to dive deeper into these numbers, with a particular focus on the loss incurred by the school through covering the expenses of students who fail to pay for lunch.

After the school released its budget on May 14, it learned from the Recovery School District that its insurance expenses would drop dramatically.  In turn, the school will spend just $47,936 rather than $72,686 on insurance.  Most of the difference will be put toward savings.

Alongside Perkins, Leboeuf, Jagers and Weishaupt, those present included board members Aesha Rasheed and Stacey Gengel, as well as a reporter for The Lens.

The hourlong meeting concluded at 6 pm.  The next board meeting is June 21 at 6 pm.


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