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School board prepares for tight budget

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By John Foster

Administrators for Oldham County Schools are working to minimize impact on students as they formulate a tight budget.

School board treasurer Chuck Littrell said a 1 percent increase in funds allocated to schools by state legislature during each of the next two years is the least he can remember. He said the increase is usually about 2.5 percent per year.

“This is probably the leanest of years we’ve seen,” he said.

Littrell said the costs for the district rise faster than the increase in funds. For example, the diesel fuel budget for next year will increase from $565,000 for the 2007-08 school year to $893,000 next year due to higher fuel prices and an increased number of children to transport.

Littrell said the tight budget will be balanced predominantly at the administrative level and in supplementary programs like the Oldham County Career Center and Oldham County Schools Arts Center — not at the school level. There is no chance of any teachers losing their positions due to the budget.

“Nobody has to fear for their jobs,” he said.

Superintendent Paul Upchurch said the schools will not let the bad circumstances of a tight budget hold them back from continuing to improve student achievement. The board wants to maintain the current student-to-teacher ratio of 22:1, he said.

Upchurch said he still plans on hiring gifted and talented coordinators to work full-time in improving services for gifted and talented students.

“Backing off on the gifted program would have been a real miss,” he said.

The board will also shift money to fund programs that received cutbacks from the state budget. He said the extended school services program as well as the safe schools program — which pays for some staff at Buckner Alternative High School — will be fully funded.

“We just have to find a way to take care of these high priorities,” he said.

Professional development will take a hit, he said, with less money for teachers to attend conferences and other training events they have attended in the past. School administrators will still offer professional development within the schools with the help of literacy coaches and other programs.

The board approved allocations to the schools in the amount of $39,865,720 — which includes funding for the new Locust Grove Elementary School. Last year that amount was about $37,800,000.

Upchurch said reductions at Central Office are his first option.

The specifics of cutbacks will be determined this month as the board prepares a tentative budget in time for the May 19 board of education meeting, Littrell said.

E-mail us about this story at: jfoster@oldhamera.com.