• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Woodford schools prepare for ‘big hit’ in state funding

With many unknowns about potentially deep cuts in state funding, Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith presented a “very conservative” draft budget for the 2018-19 school year to the Woodford County Board of Education last Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Prior to the board unanimously approving next school year’s draft budget on Monday night, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins assured board members during last Wednesday’s meeting that state funding cuts will not negatively “impact what we do for our kids. And I am confident of that.”

“As a district and as a Board of Education,” he told them, “we have done a fantastic job in putting ourselves in a position to deal with this …

We will weather this storm, I can assure you of that … We will be able to withstand this with being able to dip into (our 11 percent) contingency (fund) at a minimal level … at least for that two-year (budget) period.

“My hope is that the legislature will find the resolve to figure out a way on how we can generate additional revenue for this state … You cannot cut your way to a better commonwealth.”

Bracing for possible cuts in state education funding – specifically cuts to local bus transportation – the draft budget includes a $500,000 decrease in SEEK (per-student) funding next school year.

“For the governor to say in a public address that there was no cut to education – that is simply not the case,” said Hawkins.

“…It could be the largest cut public education has seen in my time in education,” he added.

Another significant factor in the draft budget is an increase of $423,695 in the local district’s contribution to the health insurance retirement benefits for classified (non-teaching) employees, including custodians, secretarial staff and instructional assistants.

“We are preparing for this as a worst case,” said Hawkins. He said increased employee pension costs for local school districts may be phased-in over three or four years, but “we are not counting on that. We are preparing as if it were to all occur at once.

“I’m very hopeful that it will be phased-in,” he continued, “and I think many other districts are as well because this will be a big hit to every school district across Kentucky.”

The district’s food service ($62,835) and daycare ($19,225) programs will also be responsible for larger health insurance benefit contributions to employees, according to the draft budget.

The local school board will not know how much local tax revenue will be generated by property assessments until late-July or early-August, but Smith said the district will have a better idea of how much it can anticipate when May’s tentative budget is presented. She also hopes to have more answers about how much state funding the district will receive based on its average daily attendance, which won’t be known until after the school year ends, but was projected at 3,673 in the draft budget.

The draft budget begins a three-step process leading up to the school board’s approval of a 2018-19 working budget in September, Smith said.

Bus lift project

The board approved an increase of $1,466.25 to install a new vehicle lift at the bus garage. The approved change order on the project allows contractor Eubank & Steele Construction to re-pour an area of concrete where work was undertaken, according to information given to board members. The total construction cost of the project rose to $124,664.25 with this change order.

Financial report

The district began December with a total cash balance of $16.674 million and ended the month with $16.272 million, according to Smith’s monthly financial report. A transfer of $122,900.01 from the building fund to the debt service fund allowed the district to make a bond payment.

Woodford County schools ended December with general fund cash balance of $13.341 million, the financial report stated.

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