School board approves budget for coming year

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District to operate with $3 million less, will employ fewer workers

By Drew Nichter

The Oldham County Board of Education adopted a tentative budget that eliminates $3 million and more than 50 jobs next year.

Superintendent Will Wells recommended the reduced budget at the school board’s meeting Monday.

Board members were not unanimous in their decision. District 2 representative Walt Schumm voted against the proposed budget.

Starting July 1, the school district will have less money and fewer employees.

Most jobs will come out of classrooms and the transportation department.

The district will fund at least 14 fewer teachers in 2013-14.

With federal sequestration taking an additional bite out of special-education funds, the total number of teaching positions lost could be closer to 30.

Transportation will lose 25 positions, resulting in fewer bus routes and longer bus rides for students. The school day may also start and end earlier for elementary school students; later for middle and high schoolers.

The budget also includes a furlough day July 5 for all year-round and extended-day employees, as well as pay reductions for substitute teachers and other workers.

Wells said increased expenditures and decreased revenues forced the school district to make the drastic cuts.

The superintendent plans to ask the school board for a tax-rate increase at a future meeting.

Board member Schumm said his opposition to the budget stems from a desire to see expenses cut further before raising taxes.

“My vote … is a vote that we dig even deeper [to] see if there are more cuts to be made,” he said.

Schumm said he wants the school district to use its contingency fund to close the gap between expenditures and revenue.

OC Schools has dipped into that account each of the last three fiscal years, Wells said previously, a trend he would like to see stop.

“It’s like paying for your mortgage from your savings account,” Wells said. “And much like you need those savings in case of an emergency, our district can’t continue to rely on those funds.”

If a tax increase is not approved, the district will have to use another $2 million of its contingency fund in 2013-14, the superintendent explained.

Ky. Department of Education requires school districts to maintain a contingency fund of at least 2 percent of their working budgets.

Wells said OC Schools’ fund is currently at about 7-10 percent.

Schumm said the “jury’s still out” on a potential tax increase. He’s hoping the state comes through with more funding for the district.

But, “we can’t operate on a budget of hope,” Schumm admitted.

“However, … I want to wait until the very last minute to see what revenue the state will project for us and how much our expenses could be reduced further,” he said.

The 2013-14 budget now goes to the Ky. Department of Education for its approval.

A finalized budget will come to the board for a vote in the fall.

Email us about this story at: drew@oldhamera.com.