Fayette schools chief presents board with $426.9 million budget

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMay 5, 2014 

Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington

HERALD-LEADER

After months of parental and employee angst over budget cuts, Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton presented the school board Monday with a $426.9 million proposal for 2014-15.

Shelton told board members at a planning meeting he thought the district could preserve its financial stability with the balanced budget.

"The budget does include the adjustments needed to bring our spending into alignment with our revenue," he said following the meeting.

At a board meeting last week, Shelton proposed $19.1 million in cuts to positions and programs that represent expenditures in the district's general fund — the district's main spending account. That was necessary, according to Shelton, to keep the district living within its means and not outspending its revenue.

But the total budget is only $6.2 million less than the current year's because of additional revenue the district expects to receive in local taxes and an increase from the state Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, or SEEK, funding program, Shelton said.

The tentative budget is predicated on a 4 percent increase on revenue generated from property taxes. Shelton has said he would ask the board in August to approve tax rates on real and personal property that would generate the additional money.

The 2014-15 tentative budget includes:

■ $344.6 million in the general fund from SEEK and tax receipts.

■ $28.3 million in state and federal grants.

■ $3.5 million from SEEK that is required to be used for construction and building costs

■ $29.6 million in the building fund, which comes from local tax receipts

■ $20.8 million for food service, which comes from federal funds and food sales.

The tentative budget includes an approximate 1 percent salary increase for teachers, principals and other employees, mandated by the General Assembly this year. The legislature provided $1 million in additional state funding above the money required to give teachers a pay raise of 1 percent next school year.

The tentative budget includes a $1.2 million increase in the amount the district, as an employer, is required to put into the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System. It also includes an estimated $2.2 million owed to the Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust, a $200,000 increase in what the district will spend on its contract for school nurses, and an expansion of an additional grade level at two school programs — Carter G. Woodson Academy and STEAM Academy.

Cuts to the budget's general fund include $1.6 million, or about 50 out of 911 positions at either Central Office, transportation services or the district's warehouse. At schools, the proposed cuts would eliminate about 60 full-time positions from among slightly more than 2,000 certified employee positions, including principals and teachers. About 30 positions would be cut from the more than 600 classified staff positions, which includes aides and maintenance staff. Shelton said he expects that layoffs of tenured teachers won't be necessary because of attrition.

State law and regulations require that the Board of Education adopt a tentative budget by May 30. A vote is expected at the board's May 19 meeting.

"I thought given the financial restraint that we had it was a very good budget," board chairman John Price said after the meeting. "It's a budget that tries to minimize the cuts at the classroom level and most everyone in the district, staff-wise, shares some in the reduction."

Board vice chairwoman Melissa Bacon said district officials had listened to the community and had "tried to keep any cuts as far away from the students as possible."

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

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