Fayette County school board Chairman John Price will participate in a crucial budget meeting next week through videoconference from the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, where he had a bone marrow transplant, he said Thursday.
The meeting, set for 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the 2014-15 budget that was voted down Monday, will originate from the district's Central Office on East Main with vice chairwoman Melissa Bacon presiding.
Price said he had not decided how he would vote on the $426.9 million tentative budget, which was rejected Monday by board members Amanda Ferguson and Doug Barnett and ultimately was not approved. Ferguson and Barnett have said they won't vote for the budget if staffing cuts to band and orchestra programs are not restored. The two are also concerned about cuts to special education, which were among $19 million in proposed reductions. Under state law, the budget must be approved by May 30.
"Before we make a final decision, we have to get the input from the other board members who are not in favor of the present budget," Price said. "Hopefully we can talk through the issues and determine if any modifications can be made" that would address Barnett and Ferguson's concerns, get the support of other board members and stay within the budget constraints that the district faces.
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Bacon and Daryl Love voted for the budget Monday night. Price, the fifth member, was absent. He had been carrying out duties remotely from home because doctors said he should stay away from public gatherings while he was waiting for a bone marrow transplant to treat a blood disorder that has become leukemia. Price has not physically been present at a meeting since November. He has been monitoring meetings and participating by speaker phone, but up to this point he has not been voting.
After seeing what happened with the budget Monday, Price said he asked Superintendent Tom Shelton if he would be able to vote via Skype. Shelton said Wednesday he determined that it would be legally allowed going forward.
"We have to have a budget," said Price. "We can't serve our students without a budget."
Price, who has been on the school board since 2003, said he had the bone marrow transplant May 14. He said he had anticipated being able to physically attend school board meetings before now, but a bone marrow transplant scheduled for March was postponed. Price said his recovery has been promising.
"We're hoping that I'm on the road to recovery and I will be able to return. ... I wish I was further along than I am, but I'm grateful to be where I am," said Price, whose term ends in December 2016. "If it looked like I wouldn't be able to recover, then obviously I would step aside."