The Letcher County Board of Education is being urged to consider making drastic reductions to future budgets.
“Definitely this time next year you are going to have to really look at reducing some expenditures to keep the district in the black,” said Roger Martin, the school district’s director of federal and state programs.
Martin said during the board’s May meeting last week that other districts are making drastic reductions that he thought would never be made, and he suggests that the board also consider extreme financial changes.
With salaries consuming about 80 percent of the district’s budget, Martin said there aren’t really any “big ticket items” that could be cut from the budget other than ones that the board has talked about in previous meetings.
At its April meeting, the board declined making any cuts to health insurance ($263,000), reduction of one personal day ($30,000), life insurance ($7,488), eliminate pre- school transportation ($55,000), suspend Alternative Education ($240,000), nurses’ contract with the health department ($40,000), reduction in 24-hour security at Letcher County Central High School ($64,000), school buses ($200,000), one school resource officer ($30,000) and central office reduction ($150,000).
“A few dollars saved is worth a few dollars saved,” said Martin. “For the big picture to save $50,000 or $100,000, I don’t know where that is.”
Martin pointed out that the district’s beginning balance for the 2013–2014 budget is $289,388.70 less than the beginning balance for the 2012–2013 budget. The budget’s beginning balance for 2012-2013 was $2,889,383.79 and the projected beginning balance for the upcoming school year is $2,600,000.
In the tentative budget the board approved on May 22, the general fund for the 2012–2013 school year totaled $24,060,460.79 and the projected figure for the 2013–2014 general fund is $23,215,240.
Allocations for the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding program is projected to be about $530,837 less than at the beginning of the previous school year. SEEK allocations for the 2012– 2013 school year were $1,181,488.81 and SEEK allocations for the upcoming school year are projected to be $1,036,906.27. SEEK funding is money provided by the state which is based on a formula calculated from funding for special needs students and transportation costs.
Reductions to the 2013–2014 budget include $73,453 less for Title I, $51,139 less for Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) and $2,185 less for extended school services.
Brian Johnson, the district’s finance officer, said an increase in a year’s experience for employees and rank changes create $150,000 more for salaries.
The tentative budget includes $200,000 for two new buses and $400,000 for diesel fuel. Martin reminded the board that the calendar for the upcoming school year is made up of five more days than the 2012–2013 school year and buses will be used five more days. Instead of banking 10 days like the district has done in previous year, five days will be banked this school year. Banked days are days accumulated by having extra time added to the regular school day. Banked days are used to compensate for some missed days.
Board member Terry Cornett asked Martin if any money was set aside in the budget to purchase new textbooks. In recent meetings, board members have expressed a need for textbooks since it has been about a decade since any new textbooks have been purchased for schools in the district. The state no longer provides any funding to districts to assist in buying textbooks.
Martin said that money was not designated for textbooks and that it would cost about $250,000 to buy textbooks.
“It would reduce the contingency from a $1 million to $750,000 and that is going to make it even more difficult this time next year,” said Martin.
The Kentucky Department of Education requires school districts to have a minimum of two percent of the budget in a contingency fund. For the 2013–2014, $1,036,906.27, which is about 4.1 percent, is in the contingency fund. The contingency fund for the 2012– 2013 totaled $1,181,488.81.
“I don’t know how the state really expects us to provide education for our kids anymore,” said Board Member Will Smith. “Every year our expenses go up and our moneys are less. Something is going to have to give some of these days or we are going to have to close our doors.”
Board Member Mendy Boggs asked if it would be appropriate to ask anyone else if they know where the district can save money.
“Would it be rude to ask anyone else if they have any ideas,” asked Boggs. “We have people sitting here who work in the school system every day.”
Although several district administrators attended the meeting, no one in the audience voiced an opinion on the matter.
In other business, the board approved providing free breakfast and lunch to all students in the district. Last school year was the first year the district participated in the community eligibility open. Martin said the board spent $18,000 more than the district was reimbursed. The food service fund had a beginning balance of $58,122.28 for the 2012–2013 school year. For the upcoming school year, the beginning balance for the food service fund is $40,000.
“I think free lunch has been one of the best things the board has done,” said Letcher County Public Schools Supt. Anna Craft.
Dr. Sam Quillen Jr., a Fleming-Neon dentist, said a patient of his handed him a pack of Pop-Tarts and asked that the district offer a wider variety of the toaster pastries.
Quillen said the patient is a teacher who teaches at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School. This was the first school year that elementary school students went to MJP and middle school students attended Fleming-Neon. Quillen said the teacher told him that this school year was one of the finest teaching experiences she has had.
“The only problem after the monumental decision we had to make was Pop- Tarts,” said Quillen.
Boggs said that after the board approved purchasing 50 new football helmets for the Letcher County Central High School football team during a special meeting on May 14, people asked her if the board is going to look at purchasing sports equipment for additional teams.
“This is not a luxury item,” replied Smith. “This is about $10,000 for safety, not luxury. I think everybody knows about these concussions. If we are going to have a football team we have to make it safe for our kids. This is not like buying uniforms.”
Smith said the football team has the largest number of students on any sports team in the district.
Quillen agreed that it is a safety issue.
“It’s a violent contact sport,” said Quillen. “No matter how you look at it. It’s as big a safety issue tonight as it was the other night.”
Board Chairman Robert Kiser said if other teams had safety concerns, then those concerns should be brought to the board.
Charlie Thompson, construction manager of the LCCHS softball field, golf putting green and tennis courts, said paving will begin this week.
Craft told Thompson that the softball players wear metal cleats and that the floors in the dugouts have been slippery.
“I think rubber mats will help a lot,” said Thompson. It’s real nice.”
Danny Vance, principal of Letcher County Area Technology Center, told the board that more than just one custodian is needed to keep the new 50,000-square-foot facility clean.
“It’s a huge undertaking for a building that size,” said Vance.
Smith described the center as a beautiful building that took 10 years to fund. He credited Craft for being instrumental in getting the center built.
“The last thing I want to see is that building deteriorate due to lack of custodial services,” said Smith.
Craft told the board to consider helping the technology center with custodial help. She said custodians have helped keep LCCHS looking newer than it is.
“People are amazed at the age of this building,” said Craft.
Kiser said the board would get back to Vance in June and see how it could help.
Terry Sturgill, district director of special projects, said district student enrollment decreased by 41 students during the year and the total number of students enrolled in the district is 3,202. At the end of the 2011–2012 school year, the enrollment was 3,214.
As for enrollment, Sturgill said the district is holding on to a fairly reasonable number.
Sherry Sexton, district energy manager, said the district has saved $ 66,171.76 during the 2012–2013 school year by conserving electricity.
The board went into closed session at 7:40 p.m. “for the purpose of discussing personnel, property and/or litigation” and came out of executive session at 9:07 p.m.
The board also:
• named Thomas Shepherd, a math teacher at Whitesburg Middle School, as employee of the month.
• approved hiring an estimated 175 employees as emergency certified personnel and substitute teachers for the upcoming school year.
• approved a contract with the Kentucky River Health Department or the teen leaders program in the schools.
• approved a royalty agreement between LCCHS and Ohiopyle for the upcoming school year to allow LCCHS items to be sold at Rite Aid Pharmacy.
• approved the following payment of claims for construction of the LCCHS softball field, tennis courts and golf range: Tree Top Landscaping, Inc., $91,181.53; Southern Athletic Fields, Inc., $23,700; Net Connection, LLC, $ 22,062.18; Don Amburgey’s Plumbing, $10,376.25; Complete Electrical Systems, $17,099.10; Cumberland-Cape Electric, $2,542.86; Rising Sun Developing, Inc., $107,905; Codell Construction, $ 25,213; and Sherman Carter Barnhart, $2,047.79.
• approved the financial report presented by Martin and Brian Johnson, district finance officer. The board also approved payment of bills, transfers and payment of April salaries. Johnson reported a bank balance of $5,998,272.18 as of April 30. The construction fund has $1,027,465.54.
• approved using $53,535 in the capital outlay fund to offset utility costs. The money was an excess of bonded indebtedness, said Martin.
• learned of the certified resignations of Daniel Dent, assistant LCCHS track coach; Durward Narramore, substitute teacher; Theodore Reiterman, LCCHS head wrestling coach and Chasity Toler, substitute teacher.
• learned of the certified suspension of Susan Tyree, a teacher at Letcher Elementary School, from May 2 to May 3.
• learned of the classified resignations of Karen Jackson, a cook/baker at MJP; Durward Narramore, a substitute bus driver; and Chasity Toler, a substitute instructional assistant, bus monitor and substitute secretary (districtwide).
The next regular board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on June 24 in the Lendell Smith Memorial Conference Room at the Letcher County School Bus Garage.