School budget forecast is red numbers

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By Todd Martin

Shelby County Public Schools' working budget was approved at Thursday's meeting.


And though the district's expenses are projected to exceed its revenue by about $1.1 million, or almost 3 percent, the forecast isn't nearly as bad as it looks.


"I commend the district and the board for not spending on items just because something is in the budget," said Robert Arvin, a financial consultant for the district from School Management Associates. "They have done a very good job of being fiscally responsible. And history tells us that, even with a projection to spend more than they receive, it [the actual budget] will be much closer than the projection."


During the past three years the district has projected deficits but finished each fiscal year under budget.


The district projected a 3 percent deficit in 2008-09 and came in with an actual budget about 6 percent better, or expenses of 3 percent less than revenue.


In 2009-10, the district was projected to be at a .7 percent deficit, but it came in about 5 percent better thanexpenses.


Both years the district ended the school year in the black by more than $1 million.


The district had to wait for its average daily attendance to get a true number on state funding before the current working budget could be set.


The working budget is a little more than $45.5 million, up about $1.12 million from the tentative budget set in May.


The major changes were an almost $400,000 increase in the beginning balance and a roughly $920,000 increase in funding from the state. Local tax revenue is projected to be down about $196,000.


Personnel expenses make up most of the general fund expenses, at 81.3 percent. However, that number is down from 83.9 percent last year, despite the fact that the district had to pick up more than $360,000 in salary and benefits that had been paid by federal grants and had to increase the amount contributed to the employer match benefits for certified staff.


The district's contingency fund didn't get the good news of added revenue. The contingency fund -- or money outside the budget to cover expenses -- is down nearly $1 million because of  items that were from the budget to contingency expenses.


The contingency fund is now about $3.5 million, or about 6 percent of the working budget. That is down almost 2 percent from last year.


One way to cut that budget would be saving on the energy costs of the district.


Energy manager


The district's new energy manager, Sherman Adams, gave his first report to the board.


Adams said simple changes could quickly and effectively cut the district's bills.


"Habit change can lower the district's consumption by 10 to 20 percent," he said. "Many areas I visited over the summer had lights on and thermostats set in the sixties and seventies. By turning off lights not in use and keeping temperatures at reasonable levels we can make changes right away."


Adams mentioned the idea of getting a computerized energy management system, which would give the district the ability to control areas that are not in use and limit the number of degrees a thermostat can be changed.


He also noted lighting changes throughout the district.


"I'm working with the Kentucky School Boards Association to get money to use for the project," he said.


Adams said many of the schools have older lighting fixtures that use more energy. Retrofitting those fixtures would reduce lighting energy consumed by 35 to 40 percent.


Adams also noted that Wright Elementary and SCHS would get the most of his early attention.


Talented and Gifted report


Lisa Smith, the districts' director of student programs and services, gave a report on the TAG program. Shelby County has 1,074 students in the program, with 89 of those in the primary (grades 1-3) program.


Academic honors


For the second time the board failed to give a positive reading for a change to the academic honors recognition. A committee has twice recommended to the board that the practice of ranking students be dropped, and a magna cum laude, summa cum laude and cum laude recognition be adopted.


The board, this time with a 3-2 vote, is in favor of keeping the ranking system and combining it with the cum laude system.


Also at the meeting, the board:


•    Approved the closing of the Shelby County High School roof project.


•    Approved to retrofit lighting at SCHS with money saved on the roofing and renovation projects at the school. Combined with the rebate that would be earned from Kentucky Utilities, the project would pay for itself.


•    Approved checking into the hybrid/diesel bus grant, although hybrid buses have been found to be more effective in urban areas as opposed to Shelby County's rural setting.