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School board reviews draft budget

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Officials call it ‘very conservative’

By Lisa King

Shelby County Public schools offered on Thursday night what Superintendent James Neihof called a “very conservative” early budget for the 2014-15 school year.

The draft budget is a state-mandated review of projected receipts and expenses, and the school system’s director of finance, Greg Murphy, reminded board members that even though the state requires school boards to review it in January, a lot could change later.

“The draft budget is an initial review based on projections using a lot of unknown variables,” he said. “In the initial year of a biennium the draft budget is really an educated guestimate, which is somewhat better than just a shot in the dark. We should know more when we see what comes out of Frankfort around April.”

Murphy said the reason the budget is considered conservative is because the revenue project is pretty solid.

“If we budgeted three hundred thousand dollars for the current year, I may not project that much for next year because I haven't seen the full amount come in yet for this year,” he said.

Next school year’s general fund receipts are projected to the $46,113,391, up 1.6 percent from the current 2013-14 school year. Also, property taxes are expected to be up by .08 percent in 2014-15, with a projected $3.371 million assessment of property value, up from  $3,042,907,238 this school year.

Murphy said preliminary enrollment estimates are that Shelby County will have approximately 166 more new students at the end of the first month of the new school year this fall.

“In order to be conservative, we only included thirty new students when it comes to funding,” he said. “Because SEEK funding is based on variables that are far from certain at this point, the draft budget presented only includes funding for about 30 additional students.”

The 2014-15 draft budget shows $46,113,391 in the general fund, which includes a 1.6 percent contingency increase, and $52,502,775 projected in total funds, compared to the 2013-14 draft budget of $51,498,118.

The board will approve a tentative budget in May, and must approve a working budget by Sept. 30.

 

New leadership plan

What will the district’s educational philosophy be in coming years? Members of the Strategic Leadership Plan team, made up of educators, teachers and students, listened heavily to what students wanted to know and how.

About 25 persons observed and participated in Thursday’s presentation to the school board, which on Feb. 13 will vote on whether to accept its recommendations.

Neihof said key components of the plan were developed by visiting other schools, doing online research and talking with students and parents.

“We discussed what we want for kids, and all of us listened to kids,” he said. “We asked students what they liked and disliked about school, and how they want to learn.”

Neihof said students said they wanted to learn more technical skills, and how better to work as a team. They also wanted more flexible times to study and learn.

“They said they wanted adults to listen more and talk less,” Neihof said with a chuckle.

Neihof said parents said they wanted to be more informed across the board, and that they thought kids would not be ready to tackle life if teachers only focus on providing knowledge.

Teachers want more than just to see students succeed on tests, but to shift to a transformational model focused on creating wise students who will make wise decisions, he said.
“After talking about what we wanted, I shared my vision with the team: inspired, learning, leading and living,” he said.

To accomplish this, Neihof said, the mission is prepare wise students who master standards lead by example and embrace social responsibility.

Board member Karen Sams asked Neihof, “What’s your definition of a wise student?”

He passed the question along to a student team member in the audience, Justus Martin, who replied that it’s a student who behaves responsibly and knows how to do things. Harrison Baldwin, another student team member, also added his definition as knowing how to live a good life.

Board Chair Doug Butler said that from a personal standpoint, what he had observed in classrooms, “Made me a believer in what you and team put together could work.”

“I’m a believer in your vision,” Butler told Neihof. “I will be voting in favor of moving forward with this. I think parents and teachers will have to embrace this wholeheartedly.”

Art Scrivener, a math teacher at Collins High School, who is also on the SLT, said, he was looking forward to spending more time with students, discussing things that are important to them, something that the SLT had identified as a necessary element.

“I look forward to working with those who are struggling and getting to spend more time with them,” he said.

Eddie Oakley, principal of Shelby County High School, said he would be working with teachers on ways to rearrange schedules to provide more of that kind of quality time with students.

 

Also at the meeting, board members:

§       Approved an Eagle Scout project by scout Eric Lewis to create an outdoor science learning area, complete with landscaping and benches at Wright Elementary.

§       Heard an update on the construction of the Early Childhood Center and Southside Elementary School.

§       Approved a shortened school day for two students with disabilities.

§       Accepted 2014-15 school facilities construction commission offer of assistance.

§       Approved 2014-15 non-resident contract for outgoing students.

§       Approved Family Resources and Youth Service Centers School District Assurances for fiscal year 2015-16.

§       Approved intention of Clear Creek Elementary School to apply for ADK Scholarship.

§       Approved intention of Heritage Elementary School to apply for a Music is Revolution mini-grant.

§       Approved intention for Collins High School and Shelby County High School to apply for grants for Project Lead the Way and Kentucky Read to Achieve.

§       Approved waiving board policy to allow the Collins High School and Shelby County High School JROTC rifle teams to compete in the Army Rifle Championship on Feb. 23.