Supt. Pierce says too early to worry about budget cuts
In Jan. 31-Feb. 6 issue By Greg Wells Times Journal Managing Editor
JAMESTOWN - With other districts reporting possible layoffs because of state cutbacks in education, Russell County School Superintendent Scott Pierce is sounding no such alarms.
"We had a superintendents' meeting a couple of weeks ago," Pierce said. "People were using words like catastrophic and devastating." Russell County's school chief said he felt it was far too early to use such language when talking about the funding for education.
"I don't understand," he said. "Right now no budget has even been proposed."
He said the school district has completed the required draft budget, but it is just that. Though the spending levels are lower than they were three years ago, he wants to see the support put forward in the state budget before he truly becomes concerned.
"It is way too early to get excited," Pierce said. "We've got kids to teach and we're going to teach them."
He said it is clear that there is a shift in the burden from state and federal sources to local sources and that could make things difficult going forward.
The reduction in state money for the present budget year was about $450,000 and the federal reduction was in the neighborhood of $100,000 over the last two years.
He added that the local tax rate approved by the district has gone down, but because of increasing property values in the county, the amount of money the district brings in from local taxes has actually increased.
That is somewhat bittersweet news. Pierce explained that as property values increase in the county, it triggers a reduction in the amount of money the state provides to fund education.
One thing that could be done to help without raising any taxes anywhere, Pierce said, was if the legislature would allow districts to tap into their construction funds for education.
At present the money ear-marked by the state for new construction may not be transferred to the school district's general fund to be used in teaching students.
For the time being, Pierce said the district is being cautious with their funds and envisions no lay-offs to keep schools open through this budget year.
He said that if there is no additional help from the legislature before the beginning of the next budget year that begins early this summer, then they will do what needs to be done to keep teaching.
"We have some teachers retiring," Pierce explained. "We may have to cut down on some other things like field trips."
The school board Monday night approved a draft budget for the 2009 school year of $17,094,029.
The 2006 budget was just under $18 million. Since then the cost of fuel and food have climbed steeply, Pierce pointed out to the audience at the board meeting.
He said this district is in better shape than others. "Metro Louisville is reporting they are $15 million short this year."
He added that unfunded mandates such as the over 8 percent teacher pay raise this past budget year is doing little to help this and other districts' financial situation.
In other action before the board
Future students will not be accepted as out-of-district transfers from Adair County unless the school requested has the space available and the parents are willing to pay the tuition.
The board reject taking any more students from that district on the previous contract agreement with Adair's school district.
The contracts with Wayne and Pulaski Counties were renewed. Pierce explained that those contracts involve only a few students who go to school in this district or transfer to the other districts based on transportation difficulties in the Jabez area.
"We are a growth district," Pierce explained in an interview Tuesday. "We have to make sure we have enough space to teach our students before we take students from Adair County."
Advertisements were authorized for sale of surplus equipment on an as needed basis.
The board approved future grant applications were as needed without prior board consent with the proviso that board approval was needed before any grant could be accepted.
Cost-saving change orders were approved in the middle school construction project, as was one pay request.
The board was advised of staff issues including the resignations of Darrell Thompson and Paula Asman.
The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
P.O. Box 190
120 Wilson St.
Russell Springs KY 42642
Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
404 Monument Square
Jamestown KY 42629