After a year of trimming down expenditures, Letcher County Public Schools Supt. Tony Sergent says the district’s budget is heading in the right direction.
“We’ve come a long way,” Sergent told the Letcher County Board of Education at its meeting Monday night. “We’re slowly but surely turning things around.”
Since Sergent was hired as superintendent, nearly $700,000 in expenditures has been cut, with most of the savings coming attrition of administrative positions. “It’s had a dramatic effect,” said Sergent.
Reductions in travel and food purchases for meetings and school events were also made.
“We’ve done really well with the changes we have made over the last year or so,” said Sergent. “We have really started to improve our financial situation.”
Over the last three years the beginning balance has decreased. The beginning balance for the 2014-2015 school year is $1.9 million and the 2013- 2014 beginning balance was $2,276,767.91. The district started the 2012-2013 school year with $2,889,383.79.
Sergent said as the beginning balance has decreased the district has reduced spending in an effort to try to keep expenditures less than revenue. Sergent said next school year will be tougher than this school year because the district must compensate for a mandated two percent raise for all employees. Sergent said then the budget should begin evening out even more.
The contingency fund, which is used for unexpected expenses, is at the highest percentage it has been in several years. For the 2014–2015 school year, the contingency fund totals $1,942,560.75, which is 8.3 percent of the district’s annual budget. Last school year, the contingency fund consisted of $660,000 or two percent of the district’s annual budget, which is the minimum amount required by state law.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the district spent $600,000 more than it took in and that money had to be taken from the “contingency fund”. For the 2014-2015 school year, the district is projected to spend $280,000 more than it will get in revenue.
Sergent said the district is getting closer to its goal of getting the beginning balance minus the contingency fund to equal zero.
“This year is going to be a really good year for us we think,” said Brian Johnson, district finance officer.
In other business, the board approved the general fund tax levy at 56.6 cents on real estate property and on personal property, which includes .3 cents for exoneration. This is the first time in at least 10 years that the board has chosen the compensating rate instead of approving a four-percent increase on the property tax rate after holding a required 30-minute public hearing.
“We recognize it’s tough economic times and we’re not going to ask for a four percent (increase),” said Sergent.
The compensating rate that the board approved Monday night is higher than the rate the board approved last school year, which was 50.9 cents on real property and on personal property.
The board approved a motor vehicle and watercraft property tax rate of 49.6 cents per $100 assessment and a three percent utility tax. These rates are the same as the last two years.
Kenny Cornett, district director of pupil personnel, said the district has a goal to have an attendance rate of 94.80 percent.
“We’ve been trying to come up with new things to do,” said Cornett.
In other business, Sergent told the board that the Letcher County Education Foundation has set a goal of raising $150,000 over the new few years to upgrade wiring for all schools in the district to have Wi-Fi connection.
The foundation has ordered a sign for Letcher County Central High School that will be erected near the foot of the hill at Ermine. Sergent said it will take at least six weeks for the sign to be manufactured. Will Smith said the LCCHS sign has been one of the most asked about topics since the school was built.
The foundation is organizing a golf scramble at Raven Rock Golf Course on Oct. 3.
The board also:
• gave Candy Gilley and Jonathan Palmer, with American General Insurance in Pikeville, permission to visit schools and consult with faculty and staff about offering life insurance policies.
• approved a one-year agreement with the City of Whitesburg to lease a field located near the Letcher County Conservation District at a cost of $10 a month. The land will be used as a softball field.
• approved a second amendment to Sergent’s contract to add 20 vacation days per fiscal year. Smith said the addition is a token of appreciation from the board of the job he has done.
• learned of the retirement of Mark Young, a teacher at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School.
• learned of the certified resignations of Saundra Hall, an instructional assistant II at Whitesburg Middle School, and Jacqueline Cornett, an instructional assistant II at Letcher Elementary School.
The board went into executive session at 8:05 p.m. to discuss an individual employee and litigation involving Michelle Murphey. No action was taken in the 35-minute closed session.