In Jan. 29 IssueBy John ThompsonNews-Register Reporter
At this month's meeting of the Russell County School Board it was announced that there would be a reduction in funding to the local school system of $248,696 for the 2010-11 fiscal year budget.
According to Director of Business Operations Marla Carnes, this is still a preliminary figure with the final numbers normally being released sometime in March. The number given is most likely an accurate reflection of the final numbers to come. Cuts were expected, but not this severe, according to Carnes.
The cuts are made from the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding program. SEEK is a formula driven allocation of state provided funds to local school districts. The formula includes funding for transportation costs and special needs students as reported by districts.
Carnes said, of the $248,696 reduction, the state matches to Facilities Support Program of Kentucky (FSPK) fund are being cut $27,885, leaving the remaining $220,811 to be cut from the general fund.
According to an article by the Kentucky School Board Association, four principle reasons were given for the likely reduction:
• Unanticipated student growth. KDE estimates there are 10,000 more students in Kentucky public schools than projected, due to a combination of roughly 3,000 new enrollees, higher student attendance and a change in the way attendance is calculated. These factors account for an additional $37.3 million in needed SEEK funds.
• Increased equalization for nickel facilities taxes passed by local boards. This cost is expected to come in at $5.1 million above the budgeted level.
• Higher than expected costs of Tier I equalization. This expense now is projected at $4.9 million more than was budgeted for.
• Kentucky property values fell, producing less tax receipts. This drop meant another $2 million less in state revenues going into the SEEK fund.
According to Russell County School Superintendent Kenny Pickett the budget shortfall will not likely affect personnel or programs for the remainder of the school year, but that the money had been worked into the budget and would therefore need to be made up from other areas, including other funds.
"It means we'll have to cut back on some things we had already planned on spending," Pickett said. "Most of it comes out of the general fund, so I've asked the state to let us pay some electric bills and maintenance costs out of the capital outlay fund, which I think they will approve. We just have to be really careful what we spend."
All counties are facing the same cuts, but not all counties are affected equally according to Pickett. SEEK funding takes a number of variables into consideration. An area's economic status is one variable as is land prices. Russell County has not suffered the loss in land value as heavily as other areas of the state or country, mainly due to being located on Lake Cumberland, a prime real estate location. The steadier land prices makes Russell County seem less needy than other locations in which faltering real estate prices have led to lower tax revenue.
SEEK funding was cut by $49.3 million across the state for the final three months of the fiscal year. The total SEEK budget for 2010-11 is $2.5 billion, so the cut comes to approximately 2 percent of the budget. This makes the second time in the past five years in which school districts have had to adjust for a mid-year reduction in the level of state funding on which local budgets were developed.
In the midst of attempting to cope with budget shortfalls, school systems have been tasked with training teacher in the new common core standards method of student education and assessment.
Pickett estimates that through attrition and non renewal of contracts that the school system has lost 30 positions this past year and his hope is that further cuts will not be required next year.
"At this point I don't see any cuts in positions. I hope we don't have to cut any. I hope we don't have to do that," Pickett said. "We may have attrition of employees. We just can't go out and hire people. We can't hire anybody. We've just got to try to sustain, and the bottom line of all of it, at some point and time it's going to affect kids." A situation being faced by districts across the state.
School systems throughout the states have already been warned that further cuts may be coming next year.
"They've already told us we can probably expect further cuts next year," Carnes said.