• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff 16

Board mulls looming state funding cuts

Concerns about a possible 17 percent cut in the Kentucky Department of Education's budget were raised by members of the Woodford County Board of Education when Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith's presented a $54.6 million working budget for the 2017-18 school year on Monday night. Based on reports he's read, which were published by the Kentucky School Boards Association, board Chair Ambrose Wilson IV said, "I've never seen so much concern about the future." He then asked how Woodford County schools will handle the governor's call for a 17 percent budget cut for state agencies - if it happens. "We have discussed the cuts and game-planned to deal with those cuts," responded Smith. "We've talked to our administrative staff. So we are in the process of being proactive, knowing that something is going to happen." In addition to using "a small" portion of the budget's contingency fund, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said the district has discussed reducing "flex-focus" funds allocated to each school by 10 percent. "The good thing is, it's just September, so a lot of those dollars have not been spent yet," said Hawkins. "So we can make adjustments as we need to. But what we've tried to do was make it a little bit of a shared responsibility in that we're going to take some of our contingency to help offset" the cuts the district may be facing in extended schools services, professional development and instructional resources (including books). During her budget presentation, Smith pointed out that the district will not know exactly how much per-student state funding it will receive until March. The district receives state dollars each month based on a SEEK funding formula, but adjustments are possible by the end of the school year, she explained. SEEK dollars make up about 25 percent of the 2017-18 budget's $41 million general fund. In terms of other sources of revenue in the general fund for 2017-18, Smith said 15 percent (or about $6 million) comes from state on-behalf payments contributed to the health insurance program for certified employees (teachers and administrators) in Woodford County schools. The district may be required to pay a larger portion of the retirement contribution for its classified (non-teaching) employees next fiscal year, but Smith said that change will not affect this school year's operating budget. That issue will be faced in the 2018-19 budget cycle, she said. The district currently contributes almost $900,000 to the retirement fund for its classified staff, with that amount expected to increase by about a half million dollars next fiscal year, according to state estimates, Smith said. The board will be asked to approve the working budget for the 2017-18 school year during its regular meeting at Woodford County Middle School on Monday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. The budget's general fund includes an 11.46 percent ($4.982 million) contingency. An 8.3 percent contingency would cover one month's operating expenses. In terms of general fund dollars in the working budget, 53.16 percent is being spent on school-based instruction and services, 8.27 percent pays for facility operations and maintenance, 6.31 percent covers student transportation costs, and 4.7 percent pays for district support and technology. Financial report Woodford County Public Schools began August with a total cash balance of $8.2 million and ended August with $7.3 million, according to Smith's financial report. The general fund ended the month with a cash balance of $6.8 million, with revenues of $1.247 million and expenditures of $2.09 million during August. New positions The board unanimously approved the creation of a teaching position at Northside Elementary School based on additional student enrollment as determined by the district's staffing formula. The board also approved an extra-duty supplement position for a grant coordinator to oversee a $70,000 grant awarded to the school district for building teacher capacity and increasing knowledge about National Board Certification. Grant dollars will cover this $5,000 salary supplement. A half-time interventionist position at Simmons Elementary was approved by the board. Funded by federal Title 1 dollars awarded to Simmons, the interventionist will monitor progress and create targeted lessons for students who have not mastered grade-level skills, according to information given to board members.

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