The new superintendent of Letcher County Public Schools has indicated that financial cuts to the district’s budget are necessary.
“Expenditures are rising and revenues are falling,” said Supt. Tony Sergent, who began his four-year appointment on July 1. “Sooner or later you are going to have to cut and not bring anything back.”
During a discussion of board’s decision last week not to contribute nearly $16,000 of $55,885 needed to fund a law enforcement instructor for a new law enforcement and criminal justice program at the Letcher County Area Technology Center, Sergent said it would be hard to justify spending money toward a new position when cuts are coming.
“My biggest concern I think is that come July 1 we’ve got a lot of budget problems and I am going to have to tell a lot of people that we are going to cut things and that concerns me,” said Sergent. “And we’ve added a lot of new things recently or some of the monies we have spent. As bad as I hate to say it, we can’t always say yes.”
Sergent said the law and justice program would be a great program, but he is worried about the budget.
“I have nothing against it as far as offering the program,” he said. “I’m not opposed to the program at all if it is good for our kids. We’re adding something new and then we’re going to turn around and take something away from somebody.”
Sergent said he is trying to decide where to make cuts.
“I have been racking my brain trying to find a way to cut $2,000 or $3,000 here and $2,000 or $3,000 there,” he said. “If we buy more stuff and we cut a little bit that is not going to work out in the end.”
The board learned at its June meeting last week that the cost of providing school nurses has tripled. The district funded eight nurses last school year at a cost of $5,000 each. For the upcoming school year, the cost of one nurse is $15,000.
“We budgeted $40,000 and now it would be $120,000,” said Sergent. “Seven would be $105,000. We haven’t made any decisions, that was just some of the things we had kicked around.”
He called other school districts and said some surrounding districts are decreasing the number of nurses and sharing nurses between schools.
“Everything we’ve got is wonderful,” said Sergent. “Our nurses are wonderful. I’m going to try to see what we can do about keeping them.”
Registered nurse Lisa Collins told the board that she personally saw more than 3,200 students during the 2012–2013 school year, when she was the school nurse at Letcher elementary and middle schools. The student enrollment at the Letcher campus is more than 500.
“That is a pretty heavy load for one person to carry,” said Collins, who had not intended on speaking at the board meeting, but was asked by Board Chairman Robert Kiser to address the issue.
Because of cutbacks at the state level, Collins said she understands that there isn’t much leeway for negotiations on the dollar amount to provide school nurses.
She said in addition to nurse salaries, the amount the board pays goes toward supplies
“The number of Band-Aids, Tylenol — it’s just astronomical the number of things,” said Collins.
The nursing program is benefi- cial to all students, she said.
“I don’t want to see students not have medical services,” said Collins. “I’ve had many sleepless nights and several crying nights.”
Mike Caudill, chief executive officer of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, attended the meeting to renew a contract with the board to continue providing school-based clinics. Caudill said 5,182 students and staff received services through the school-based clinics during its first year.
“We’ve had a great working relationship with the nurses,” he said.
In other business at last week’s meeting, the board reviewed the first reading of a policy pertaining to board-owned vehicles which would require district employees to sign out vehicles, record mileage and state the reason for use of the board-owned vehicle.
According to the proposed policy, board-owned vehicles are to remain on board property when not being used for district-related business, meaning employees will not be allowed to use boardowned vehicles for personal use or to drive to and from home. However, if approved by the superintendent, district transportation employees will be allowed to park district-owned buses on private property.
After serving as the legislative contact for the board for at least the last seven years, Board Member Dr. Sam Quillen Jr. suggested someone else take a turn.
Quillen nominated Board Member Terry Cornett, but Cornett declined the nomination, stating his work schedule in the coal mines would prevent him from taking on such a responsibility.
Cornett nominated Board Member Mendy Boggs, who was hesitant to take the challenge.
“I really don’t have time,” said Boggs. “Sorry. The legislators can’t get a hold of me because I have three children at home pulling at me nonstop.”
Quillen encouraged Boggs to be the new legislative contact.
“We want a fresh approach,” said Quillen. “That is what we need.”
Quillen told Boggs that she needs to get involved and get to know her legislators. Quillen said she could talk to the legislators mostly by telephone and making a few trips to Frankfort.
Boggs suggested that Kiser take on the role.
“You know (State Rep.) Leslie (Combs) pretty well,” said Boggs.
“I think I have enough responsibility from here,” said Kiser.
Roger Martin, district director of federal programs, told the board that the district enrollment is be- ginning to decrease. At the end of the 2012–2013 school year, district enrollment totaled 3,199, down 44 students from the first day of the school year. District enrollment at the end of 2011–2012 was 3,214.
“I wonder if unemployment benefits have run out,” said Martin. “I have a feeling that our enrollment may continue to decline. We need to be aware of that.”
Danny Vance, principal of the Letcher County Area Technology Center, was named employee of the month.