School budget may get tighter

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By Todd Martin

The Shelby County Board of Education will take a second look at the district budget for the upcoming school year during its meeting Thursday at Central Office.

The first look at next year’s finances came in late January, when the board approved the draft budget.

Now, working on the tentative budget, the district must take into account cuts made by state government and updated projections of enrollment.

If the House and Senate approve Gov. Steve Beshear’s compromised budget as expected during this week’s special session, the district would be forced to make more cuts to an already conservative draft budget.

Gov. Beshear’s plan calls for the state to take about $41 million from the balance of the state’s base school appropriations, $36 million from cutting the funding of one day from the 177-day school calendar and millions more from cuts to education.

The plan calls for 3.5 percent cuts in the first year and 4.5 percent in the second year, but it specifies that cuts to education and other priority items could  be less than those numbers.

In total, those cuts should generate $161 million to help the state balance the budget.

The cuts will certainly make the school system’s budget process more difficult. However, the district has been preparing for this.

“We have a very conservative budget we’re going to present to the board on Thursday,” SCHS Superintendent James Neihof said.

The district had already budgeted for the lowest possible state SEEK funds (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky), and Neihof noted that the district had already cut new bus savings from the budget.

“We had already made that cut, and several others, but that’s not something we can continue to do,” he said. “You can’t cut that out of the budget every year.”

The district will receive some help with State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, which are part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, in the form of $2 million.

“With that help, we can stay in the black by using 99.7 percent of our expected revenue for the 2010-11 year,” Neihof said.

But that will leave the district, like most others, in a bind for the 2011-2012 school year.

The district’s first budget already was difficult to follow because of costs associated last year with the building of Collins High School and cuts already made by the state.

Overall, Shelby County Public Schools had forecast about $61 million in revenue for the 2010-11 school year, down about 9.5 percent from the 2009-10 budget. Expected expenditures were about $54 million, down about 7 percent from the previous year.

The district’s general fund was down about $3.4 million than the previous year, but $3 million of that change was money added to the general fund the year before to help cover costs of the construction of athletic facilities for Collins High School.

Another drop this year is $2.3 million in the capital outlay and building fund, again because in large part of funding for Collins last year.

Also at the meeting, the board will:

• Recognize John Zehner, Wired 65 Inventions Fair winner, and Chelsea Schlosnagle, Going Places Entrepreneurship National Award winner.

• Consider approval of the district’s unmet needs.

• Consider approval of salary schedules for the 2010/2011 year.

• Consider approval of the recommendation to name the gym at SCHS in honor of Mike Casey.

• Consider approval of awarding contracts for school yearbooks for 2010/2011.