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Shelby County School Board: ‘Tighter’ budget could get worse

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It’s barely balanced and next year could be rough

By Todd Martin

The Shelby County school board approved a bleak budget on Thursday, although it balances, and according to Greg Murphy, the district director of finance, it could get worse.

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“I think last year I used the term razor thin, and this year it’s even tighter,” Murphy told the board in his report. “The budget balances, and our revenue exceeds our expenses, barely.

“And the next two years could be even more difficult. The second year of the biennium has the potential to be very, very difficult.”

The district’s total budget, including the general, building, capital outlay, special revenue and food services funds, is about $58.8 million. The general fund includes the most expenses and makes up the largest portion of the budget with a projected $43.3 million. That number is up .4 percent from the 2011-12 budget.

The projected expenses for the general fund are about $42.6 million, down .6 percent from the 2011-12 budget.

Murphy said the current budget does include the state’s new Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding rate of $3,833 per pupil, which is $70 less per pupil than the current rate and relates to a change of $570,000 compared to this year.

The largest portion of the district’s funds will go toward payroll and benefits, which make up 86.2 percent of the general fund, excluding the contingency fund, an increase of .9 percent from the current budget.

Because of growth projections, earlier this year the district planned for 3.8 additional teaching positions next year. The board also approved the salary schedule for next year, which included no salary increases.

Murphy said the district has planned for a change in the number of days worked for some administrative positions, and for the first time the district will have a shutdown week during the week of Christmas.

At that time, the district will close down all buildings, dropping energy consumption to the lowest possible levels.

The district will carry a contingency fund of 10.61 percent, or about $5.02 million.

Murphy explained that this amount is comparable to the contingency fund at this same time in the past two budgets and noted that the number is higher than normal because it is calculated a different way, per state instructions. If calculated the way it was before, the contingency would be about 8.2 percent.

Superintendent James Neihof in an earlier interview said several innovative projects he would like to add, including reducing the class sizes, will have to wait until the budget can be improved.

The next budget step for the board will come at the end of August or first of September, when it would discuss and adopt a tax rate.

Unmet needs

The board approved the district’s request for unmet needs, excluding two requests for playground equipment at Heritage and Wright elementary schools. Those two were held out for more information to see if they are necessary.

The other needs totaled $617,000 from the general fund escrow, which is money saved during the school year, and another $48,500 from the contingency fund.

The largest requests were $207,000 for the Compass Learning software – which is used in several different areas, including the Diploma Recovery Program – $136,000 for district-wide staff professional development, $124,000 for Project Lead The Way expenses – including adding an engineering program at the Shelby County Area Technology Center for Shelby County High School students.

Budget amendment

A bit of good news did come out of Thursday’s meeting. A budget amendment to the 2011-12 budget allowed for almost $300,000 to be added to the contingency fund. The money came from the full funding of the SEEK fund from the state. School districts were cautioned to not plan for a fully funded SEEK budget from the state. That money could be part of the saved funds that are used to fulfill the unmet needs requests for 2012-13.

Restricted funds use

The board approved using money from the building fund for the purchase of new buses, property insurance, pupil transportation insurance and umbrella insurance. In 2010, the General Assembly allowed school districts to use restricted funds for certain operating purposes because of the fact that SEEK was not going to be fully funded. The request was for a total of $644,913, with nearly $440,000 going toward new buses, which had originally been planned to be purchased from the general fund.

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Recognized the student board representatives for their work.
  • Recognized members of the SCHS and Collins choirs, bands and orchestras for their presentation and their work during a workshop at Walt Disney World in February. The group sang and provided voice over and music for clips of Disney films and learned about site reading.
  • Approved fundraisers included in booster club/support organizations budgets for 2012-13.
  • Approved hiring substitutes on a 1-year emergency certificate.
  • Approved continuing the Read To Achieve grant program for 2012-13.
  • Approved intent to apply for a preschool grant.
  • Approved extending the contract for carpet installation.
  • Approved awarding contract interior painting at SCHS.