Fayette school district may create committee to oversee spending from trust funds

In an examination released in September, Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen questioned how Fayette County Public Schools oversaw trust funds managed by the district.

Now district staff has recommended that the school board appoint a committee to oversee the district's seven or more trust funds and the distribution of funds.

If given school board approval on Dec. 15, the new Fayette County Public Schools Education Foundation Committee will work with the Bluegrass Community Foundation to oversee the district trust funds.

"Establishing a foundation committee that is really representative of the community and of Fayette County Public Schools ... will bring strength to the decision-making and ... will hopefully assure more transparency in how those decisions get made, be a more democratic process," said Fayette County chief operating officer Mary Wright.

The committee would consist of a school board member, a principal, the superintendent or designee, an Equity Council member and three at-large community residents, including a parent appointed by the 16th District PTA and a classified employee, such as a custodian or an administrative assistant. The committee will oversee the intent of the fund and make any recommendation for how the funds are disbursed, Wright said.

Blue Grass Community Foundation, established in 1967 as Kentucky's oldest community foundation, currently has $72 million in charitable assets under management, including three charitable funds for Fayette County Public Schools, according to board documents. Those include the Innovation in Public Education Fund, an endowed charitable fund with current assets of $185,866, and the David C. Humphreys Memorial Fund, an endowed charitable fund with assets of $142,000.

Edelen's report questioned whether the Stoner Trust, established by a teacher who died more than 50 years ago, was being used in accordance with its charter.

After Mary K. Stoner died in 1961, her will directed that a $150,000 trust fund be set up for the "enhancement and enrichment of educational programs." Stoner said she was confident that the board would carry out plans and projects that "would be beneficial to the students."

Money from the fund has been used most recently for educational loans to staff, loans to prevent financial hardship while traveling for professional development, and loans to obtain certifications.

School board member Doug Barnett has suggested that the Stoner Trust be used to help William Wells Brown, the Lexington elementary school with the lowest test scores among elementary schools in the state in 2013-14.

As of Sept. 30, there was more than $1.1 million, before market value adjustments, in the Stoner Trust Fund, and the available cash balance was more than $400,000.