In an effort to maintain open lines of communication between home and school, here is an important message from Fayette County Public Schools.
Dear FCPS Families:
As national and state economies have struggled over the past several years, school districts around the state have had to cut their budgets drastically. Fayette County was spared from those difficult decisions while others around us were losing teachers and eliminating special programs because we had a reserve to cover the state and federal cuts.
When grants have ended, Fayette County Public Schools picked up the cost rather than eliminating those positions and programs. While other school districts had significant layoffs, Fayette County Public Schools raised employee salaries in order to recruit and retain the most talented staff to serve our students. Support from our local community and a healthy fund balance kept us in a strong financial position.
Think of it like two neighbors who both lose their jobs. If one neighbor has three month's salary in savings and one neighbor has three year's salary in savings, then the one with more in savings can go longer before they have to make cutbacks. It took 7 years to get to this point. We have weathered it for a long time. But as expenses have continued to increase, we are now in a position where our spending is outpacing our revenue.
Over the next several months, our school district will face difficult conversations and decisions about our budget. We will have to trim about 5 percent of our general fund spending in order to present the school board with a balanced budget in May. If it we could absorb the entire cut at the district level, we would do that. But that is mathematically impossible. Even if we shut down the district office, it would not be enough to balance the budget. And there is no way that a district with 41,000 students, 66 schools and special programs, and 5,815 employees can function without an administrative staff to run payroll, pay the utility bills and assign subs when teachers are absent.
In total, 88 percent of Fayette County Public Schools current spending goes to salaries and benefits for the district's employees, so we know we cannot balance the budget without impacting our staff. A group of principals and district leaders has been meeting since last fall to develop a new school staffing formula. A proposal on the new procedure was scheduled to go before the Fayette County Board of Education this evening at its 6 p.m. meeting.
Despite the best intentions of the people who have worked hard to develop the sound proposals put forth in the new staffing procedures, distrust and paranoia have unfortunately led to widespread speculation and false rumors that have upset our families, students, employees and community at large.
In light of this, we have decided to pull the changes to the staffing procedures off of the board agenda for tonight, Monday, February 24.
As superintendent, I am committed to listening to our district leaders, principals, employees, families, students and community. It is my responsibility to present the school board with a balanced budget in May and in order to do so, we will have to create a spending plan based on 95 percent of the resources we have this year. We face tight timelines and strict deadlines under state law. But we cannot move so quickly that we risk breaking faith with the people we serve.
We will put the staffing changes on hold until we have time to bring more people into this conversation. We will be open to suggestions and questions and move forward in a way allows for open and honest discourse. We will establish a web page at www.fcps.net/budget where we will make information available throughout this process. On March 6 at 6 p.m. we will host a public forum at the district's main offices, located at 701 East Main Street, to answer questions and gather input. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend.
Our families are important partners for us and it is critical that we have your participation as we approach the challenging task of trimming 5 percent from our budget. In this fiscal climate, managing our resources is necessary, but compromising student outcomes is not.
Thank you for all you do to support your children's success.
Tom Shelton, PhD Superintendent Fayette County Public Schools