Local school systems dealing with budget cuts

January 08, 2004|GARY MOYERS

Gov. Ernie Fletcher's executive order Monday reducing the state's budget contained a direct hit on local school systems.

School districts are required to immediately reduce budgets by 2.5 percent, affecting family resource centers, preschool and afterschool programs and technology money. The cuts will remain in place through the end of the fiscal year, according to a statement from the Governor's office.

Fletcher's spending cuts are intended to prevent the state from finishing the current fiscal year with a budget deficit - something that's prohibited by the state constitution. Budget forecasters had predicted that if the state were to continue along its previous budget plan, Kentucky would finish the fiscal year that ends June 30 more than $261 million short. When counting the state's unbudgeted expenses that occurred over the year, that deficit increased to more than $302 million.

Fletcher announced $30.3 million in budgeted finances were cut from state universities and the Kentucky Department of Education, representing a 2.5 percent reduction in General Fund appropriations. The release states the savings from the Department of Education does not result in reductions of funds to school districts.


Burgin School Superintendent Richard Webb said his district has already absorbed the cut, but he's not happy about it.

"It's affected us just like anybody else," he said. "It's money we counted on and now we're not going to get it. It's not a significant amount of money in our case, and it will not impact personnel, but my biggest problem with it concerns our entire budget process. I've said it before and I will continue to say it; the whole problem has not been as much with the cuts as how they've been done. They ask us to set a budget in May, then in December and January they come back and take money away from it. We're not allowed to do that at a local level, and it's a poor way to do business," adding that the cuts will be drawn from supplies and other sources.

Danville Superintendent Bob Rowland said he received a heads-up about Fletcher's order in an e-mail from Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit that said SEEK funding would not be affected. However, the e-mail did not mention family resource centers among the affected programs, said Rowland.

"If the cut does apply to family resource centers, staffing likely would be the area most significantly impacted," said he said. The Danville center has one director and four full- and part-time employees, and its companion program, Youth Services, has a director and one employee, he said.

However, the Family Resources Center and Youth Services programs have a financial buffer protecting them to some extent against the cuts, Rowland said. In addition to state budget funds, the programs receive a significant amount of their money from grants and other sources, ranging from $15,000 to $65,000 and more, which pay for training, supplies, materials and some salaries, he said.

Boyle County will look to transfer funds from other programs.

"The 2.5 percent cut affects extended school services, textbooks, professional development, safe schools, technology, preschool and family resource/youth service centers," said Boyle Superintendent Pam Rogers. "Five of these programs are supported by flexible funds. We can transfer money from one flexible fund to another; technology and family resource/youth service centers are not supported by flexible funds, so we will have to absorb the cuts in these two areas.

"We should receive more information today or tomorrow to know the exact amounts we are losing at this time," she said.

Teresa Wallace, superintendent for Lincoln County, said her district is waiting for final directives from the state Department of Education before making the cuts, but said personnel will not be affected.

Some information for this story was gathered by Staff Writer Herb Brock and by the Associated Press.

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