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Jenkins must consider tax hike, official tells school board this week




The Jenkins Independent Board of Education is considering increasing taxes on real estate after learning at Monday night’s special-called meeting that changes will need to be made to balance future budgets.

“You have a ways to go to make your budget balance,” said Gary Caldwell, a financial consultant with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), to the board at the meeting held August 11.

Caldwell told the board it had options that include cutting back on classified staff employee hours and days, but the board did not seem interested in that option. Board members did, however, agree that raising the tax rate is necessary after KDE gives notification of the compensating rate. Deborah Watts, superintendent of the Jenkins Independent School System, said the compensating rate keeps a district level with the funds it had the previous year.

“If you don’t take that you are backing up each year,” said Caldwell.

Candala Gibson, district finance director, said the board has not recently raised the tax rate to the compensating rate. Gibson said for the past few years the district has set the property tax rate at 56.7 cents per $100 of real estate and the motor vehicle tax at 69 cents per $100.

The Letcher County Board of Education voted last August to increase taxes on real estate by four percent, the maximum amount allowable under Kentucky law without being subject to recall by registered voters. It approved a tax rate of 45.4 cents per $100 of real estate.

Raymond Prunty, a board member, asked how the school district compared financially to this time last year.

Gibson said the district’s beginning balance for last school year was $395,000 and the unaudited beginning balance for this school year is $220,000.

“You are down $175,000,” said Caldwell. “If you don’t adjust you would be in deficient next school year.”

Gibson told the board that the district will receive $64,521 less in SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) allocations than what was forecast. SEEK funds are given to school districts by KDE based on a formula which includes several factors such as student enrollment, average daily attendance, transportation and special education.

Caldwell said the board is having to spend $90,000 more than what is allotted from SEEK funds to pay for the operations and other expenses at McRoberts Elementary School.

Gibson told the board that based on the district’s staffing allocation formula, the district is overstaffed by about five teacher positions at Jenkins Middle High School and by about four positions at Jenkins Elementary School.

“If you are losing (money) you have to get your staffing in line and increase your taxes,” said Caldwell.

The board will look at the staffing allocation formula and Watts said the board will consider making changes to the formula when it is time to plan next year’s budget.

“These are things we need to be thinking about now so we can make decisions later,” said Watts.

Gibson said the district ended last school year with its contingency fund containing $250,000, which was six percent of its general fund. Caldwell said the contingency fund is in case of emergencies such as a roof blowing off of a school.

“It’s a buffer to keep you from going into a deficient,” said Caldwell.

Caldwell said KDE requires the contingency fund to be two percent of the general fund but recommends it being five percent. Durward Narramore Jr., chairman of the board, added that KDE doesn’t like for the contingency fund to be too high either.

“You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” said Caldwell.

Narramore said he doesn’t want people to think the school system’s doors are shutting down because Caldwell visited the board and gave them financial advice.

“We aren’t going to have KDE beating our door down come Monday morning,” said Narramore. “I just don’t want anyone to think we are nailing the doors shut. This is what districts are supposed to do.”

Caldwell said the reason for his visit to the board is to let the board have an opportunity to look at how things are going and make changes.

“The name of the game is we are going to have school,” said Narramore. “(If) we get our staffing the way it needs to be, raise our taxes and mind our P’s and Q’s and we’ll be alright.

“You don’t fill positions when they become available either,” said Narramore. “People may have to teach out of field.”

“One thing we want to make clear is that we are going to fix this,” said Watts.

The board also:

• established two extra service positions (a volleyball coach and a softball coach) that needed to be added to the pay schedule.

• abolished two aide positions that have not been filled and Watts said the board could re-establish those positions if they are needed at a later time.

• increased the minimum wage hourly rate from $5.90 to $6.55.

• approved the Jenkins Elementary School handbook which was revised to incorporate the new anti-bullying law that protects students from being bullied by classmates. The legal definition of harassment now includes student behavior that causes physical harm, intimidation or humiliation for fellow students.

“Bullying is going to be a big bear before it is through,” said Narramore.

• approved an application from the Jenkins Middle High School cheerleading squad to use the high school gymnasium for gymnastic lessons.

• approved a second reading of the policy and procedure updates as well as four policies which include activities on growth days, overnight stay reimbursement, assessments and staff meetings.

Overnight stays will get a maximum allotment of $30 a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Learning checks will be conducted every six weeks to check learning progress in core content areas. Attendance is mandatory for staff meetings.

• modified the school calendar to close school on August 22 to allow students to attend Jenkins Day festivities. January 5 will be added as a student instruction day.

Tracy Goff, vice-chairman of the board, asked if Jenkins Day is historically a low attendance day and Watts said that is what she had understood to be true.

“This will allow students to participate in Jenkins Day and prevent low attendance,” said Watts.

• approved paying CS Design Inc., an architecture firm in Lexington, $1,800 from bonded funds to pay for overseeing school construction projects.

• recommended bidding for additional security cameras to be placed at all of the schools in the district.


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