HAZARD – Officials with Perry County Schools received state funding allocations earlier this month, and those numbers are not painting a very rosy financial picture for the district.
“There is nothing pretty about our budget,” Jody Maggard, the district’s finance officer, told the school board during a meeting in Hazard Thursday as he presented the district’s draft budget for the next fiscal year.
Maggard was referring to a reduction of just over $700,000 in funds known as SEEK, the state’s basic funding formula for education which takes into account student enrollment, among other things, when determining allocations.
In Perry County a loss of enrollment which drastically affects average daily attendance, especially in students with special needs, is adding to the SEEK reduction officials are seeing in the county, Maggard explained.
“This is not good news,” he continued. “I wish like anything I could come back and say I’m not concerned with the draft budget and I think we’re going to be fine. I cannot say that.”
As a result of the loss, Maggard said site-based allocations will necessarily reduce as well, because with fewer students the district won’t be able to justify the same number of employees.
“If you’ve got 25 less students in your building, that is going to affect staffing,” he said.
Another factor contributing to this reduction, Maggard added, is a projected increase in property taxes. He noted in December when he first cautioned the board about potential reductions that higher property taxes will also lead to a cut in the amount of money allocated for the district.
He added on Thursday that this draft budget also makes assumptions, such as the amount of taxes collected, that could ultimately affect the district’s finances further.
“This is making the assumption we’re going to collect all of the revenue we budgeted,” he said. “That may or may not be the case. As industries leave, that’s less utility tax, less property tax.”
The district will also incur an added expense of roughly $125,000 in step increases for some employees, both certified and classified. Step increases are automatic pay raises based upon the amount of time an employee has maintained employment within the district. The board does not vote on these increases, as they are set within the salary schedule.
The remaining district employees, Maggard noted, will not receive a pay raise.
“Times are really, really difficult in education,” he said. “This will make the fifth year that our staff has went without any type of raise. And they know that; they know that all too well.”
There was one somewhat bright spot, however, as Maggard noted that in 2014 the district will no longer be in debt for Perry Central High School and the building will be paid for. The district’s bonding potential is about $22 million at present, and he explained that paying down that debt could free space for school construction in the future.
The board unanimously approved the district’s draft budget, which will allow Maggard to begin the budgeting process for the next fiscal year.
In other business, the board approved pay applications for ongoing work at East Perry Elementary and the adjacent athletics complex in the amount of $539,683 and $125,297 respectively.
Melinda Joseph-Dezarn, with the architecture firm Ross-Tarrant, updated the board on ongoing construction, noting that the project is continuing at a good pace. Drywall is going up in the school building, and electricity and water service has been connected. Additionally, the city of Hazard is expected to begin installing sewer lines to the school soon, which is estimated to take approximately six weeks to complete once work begins.
Joseph-Dezarn also spoke briefly about furniture and fixtures for the school, which her firm will not handle, but Maggard explained that furnishing the building will represent a major cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He requested approval from the board to begin the process of bidding furniture for the school, which is scheduled to open later this year.
“We want to get the ball rolling on that early so we’re not sitting up there two weeks from school starting and kind of in panic mode about where’s the furniture,” Maggard said.
The board gave unanimous approval to begin the bidding process.
The board also heard a brief presentation from Mike Oder with the Kentucky School Board Association.
For a cost of $8,500, the KSBA offers a service to help school districts locate candidates in a superintendent search, including advertising, receiving applications, and helping to form a screening committee.
Former Superintendent John Paul Amis retired in November, and while Interim Superintendent Jonathan Jett has served in that capacity since, the board has yet to formally begin the search for a permanent replacement.
Oder said if the board decides to contract with KSBA, the process would take approximately three months to find candidates whom the board could consider. And though KSBA helps with the process, Oder added that the association does not choose the superintendent or even make a recommendation, but rather to help the board along during the search.
“If you were just looking for a superintendent, if you’d give me about 15 or 20 minutes I could have you one,” he said. “But you’re looking for the right superintendent for the students of Perry County. And so, that’s what we try to help you find.”
The board also voted to keep John C. Combs as its chairman, a position he has held since 2007. Charlene Miller will also remain as vice-chair, and Debbie McIntosh as legislative liaison.