Gov. Fletcher's budget proposal draws local reaction

January 28, 2004

One man's pay increase is another man's budget cut, according to Danville Superintendent Bob Rowland.

In his proposed biennial budget, unveiled Tuesday, Gov. Ernie Fletcher calls for a 1.5 per cent pay increase for public school teachers in fiscal 2005 and a 3 percent increase in fiscal 2006. The governor wants local school districts to pay the 1.5 percent pay hike and the state to cover the 3 percent increase.

"The 1.5 percent is called an increase but it effectively is a cut, not to mention another unfunded mandate from the state," Rowland said today. "It's a cut because we'll have to dig into our contingency fund to pay for it, which is the same action we've been taking to cover the other cuts we've faced, like the recent $6,000 cut we received for our Family Resource Center, preschool and Extended Student Services programs."

While the 1.5 percent increase in Fletcher's budget applies to school teachers only, both the Danville and Boyle County school districts give their classified personnel the same pay increase as teachers and other district personnel. Thus, the 1.5 percent increase will cost the Danville district about $150,000 and the Boyle district more than $200,000.


"We fully understand that the state is in dire financial condition and that the governor and legislature must get the budget under control and balanced," Rowland said. "All quarters of state government, including public schools, must share the pain and burden of cuts.

"But the state has overburdened us with the unfunded mandates," said Rowland. "They are mandating a salary increase, which is good for teachers, but they are requiring us to cut our own budget to cover at least part of it."

"It's devastating," Boyle Superintendent Pam Rogers said today. "We have cut about everything we can. There's virtually nothing left to cut."

Meanwhile, 54th District Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Junction City, said that while he regrets that local school districts will have to "go into their reserves" to cover the 1.5 percent pay increase, the governor at least protects all of the money in the SEEK Fund, which provides the bulk of funds for local school districts.

In a general comment on Fletcher's budget, which proposes several cuts but no tax increases, Harmon applauded his fellow Republican, saying, "When we face our greatest challenges, it takes someone with courage to make tough decisions now, so that our state can flourish in the future ... Just as many plants grow stronger and have better fruit after pruning, Gov. Fletcher expects the same from our great state."

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