Fayette superintendent tells employees $20 million needs to be trimmed from budget

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Superintendent Tom Shelton explained why budget cuts don't affect construction.

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Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton sent school employees an email saying the district has to trim $20 million from next year's budget, but it will be done without harming student achievement.

Shelton's email, which was sent Wednesday, said the district would have to trim about 5 percent of the district's general fund spending "in order to present the school board with a balanced budget in May."

Shelton told the Herald-Leader Thursday night that the email "shared all of the information that is firm at this time."

"We are just beginning the process and accumulating information to analyze to develop a plan," he said.

In his email, Shelton said the district is looking for ways to realign resources to more efficiently and effectively serve the needs of students.

"In this fiscal climate, managing the budget is necessary, but compromising student outcomes is not," he wrote.

Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said the email was sent to notify employees of the district's budget situation and let them know the district was "working toward a proposed solution" for the tentative 2014-15 budget.

Deffendall said the district had a $433 million budget in the 2013-14 school year.

Shelton had previously told the Herald-Leader that Fayette County's revenue streams were growing at a slower rate than the district's expenses and "we can't continue to do that."

His email to school employees said that "as our national and state economies have struggled over the past several years," the district has lost significant state and federal funding.

"As grants have gone away, our district has picked up the cost of those positions and programs," he said. "While other school districts have had significant layoffs, we have raised employee salaries in order to recruit and retain talented and committed staff members."

Shelton told employees that support from the local community and a healthy fund balance has kept Fayette County in a strong financial position. But as expenses have "continued to increase, we are now in a position where our spending is outpacing our revenue."

In the next several months, Shelton said, "our school district will face difficult conversations and decisions about our budget."

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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