Danville board anxious over state's financial condition

January 27, 2004|HERB BROCK

When Gov. Ernie Fletcher delivers his televised budget address before the General Assembly tonight, he can count on having at least six interested and anxious viewers in Danville - the city district's superintendent of schools and five board of education members.

"We will be on the edges of our seats," Superintendent Bob Rowland said at Monday night's board meeting. "And once his budget is out there, I want the public to know we will be on top of it every step of the way through the legislature."

Fletcher's address comes at time when Danville and the state's other public school districts are beginning their own budget-making processes in earnest. Because of the large revenue shortfall facing the state and uncertainty over exactly how lawmakers will handle it as they tackle Fletcher's proposed spending plan, the local districts' budgets will be filled with estimates, contingencies and question marks, said both Rowland and district finance officer Patsy Clevenger.


"We're basing our budget on estimates we've received from the state department (of education)," said Clevenger as she presented the board with a draft budget of more than $11 million for 2004-05. "As we've done in the past, we're being very conservative in our own planning, and you have to be with the shortfalls and unfunded mandates."

Five percent pay increase is most important "unfunded mandate"

She said the most important "unfunded mandate" is the 5 percent pay increase for state employees, including school personnel, written into the state budget for the current fiscal year. She is hoping that the legislature will require that the state pick up at least half the tab.

"If local districts have to cover the whole 5 percent, it would have a dramatic impact on us," said Clevenger, estimating that each percentage point of a raise for all certified and classified personnel in the Danville district would cost the local district about $100,000, or a total of $500,000 for a 5 percent raise.

The local district already is dealing with reductions in state grants that go for specific programs, including $6,000 in cuts to the Family Resource Center, extended school services and preschool programs.

The district's contingency fund has been able to soften the blows of state budget cuts in the past and likely will be used to do the same this cycle, Clevenger said. State law requires that each school district maintain a contingency that amounts to 2 percent of its overall budget; the Danville district sets aside 5 percent of its budget for the contingency fund.

"We weathered the cuts and tight state budget last year and we're weathering the cuts we've received so far this year, but it will become increasingly more difficult," she said. "We're going to have another rocky spring trying to configure our budget to what comes out of Frankfort and meet our overall goal of maintaining all of our faculty, staff and our programs."

District gets grants for two programs

But despite the cloudy budget situation, Rowland announced a couple of rays of sunshine - two grants for special district programs.

In one grant, the district will receive over the next six years $155,000 a year in Reading First funds for Hogsett and Toliver elementary schools over the next six years. The total for the six-year period will be $155,000. The two local elementaries were among 72 Kentucky schools receiving the grants out of 200 that applied.

Reading First funds are awarded to Kentucky schools in which 50 percent or more of their students are ranked as below proficient under state testing guidelines and in which 15 percent or more of their students are considering in poverty. Jennie Rogers Elementary was ineligible to apply for the grant because its student body did not meet the two academic and income conditions.

The funds will pay for a reading teacher and reading materials for Hogsett and Toliver. The reading teachers will work with classroom teachers in kindergarten though third grade at each school in an intensive program aimed at ensuring that all students are reading at grade level by the end of their third grade year.

In the other grant, the district will receive $150,000 in federal funds to continue and expand Danville Kids University, a program for high-achieving elementary students wanting to hone their academic and computer skills. DKU started a new session Saturday with 90 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

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