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“Deep cuts”

Board approves budget reduction plan

Several employees of the McCreary County School District will be looking for work, and many more will see a reduction in their paychecks next year after the McCreary County Board of Education voted 4-1 to approve a deficit budget reduction plan at Tuesday’s regular scheduled Board meeting.

A standing room only crowd filled the meeting room as interested staff members and parents were concerned about rumored cuts to jobs and programs.

After dispensing with standard issues, Board Chair Brandon Kidd opened discussions on the proposed cuts by stating the Board had tough decisions to make, and were running out of time to balance the tentative budget.

“We are at a time right now when nothing can be left off the table,” he said. “We have to do deep cuts.”

Kidd outlined a plan that not only would cut about $1.6 million from the budget, it would leave the District with a surplus of about $400,000 – meeting their statutory obligation to keep a two percent reserve.

Kidd noted the proposal was a combination of suggestions from Superintendent Donnie Wright (presented at the previous Board meeting) and suggestions from Assistant Superintendent Aaron Anderson as well as input from the Board.

According to Kidd’s proposal, the District faced a shortfall of over $650,000 for the coming budget year. That deficit was increased to over $945,000 when a Capital Outlay for planned construction projects and an expected reduction in SEEK funding for the upcoming school year were added to the shortfall.

The proposed budget reductions included several deep cuts to administrative pay and the elimination of several positions.

Included was the elimination of one Counselor position at McCreary Central High School, saving over $68,000, reduction of Principal contract days to 220 from 235, including cuts to their supervision percentage, saving $69,000, cuts to extended days to guidance, assistant principals, several Central Office staff, and some maintenance positions, saving more than $108,000.

It also eliminated all Instructional Supervisor positions at Central Office for a $247,000 reduction, abolished the Pre-School Director position ($10,000)– shifting the duties to primary school level principals, and raised the student to teacher ratio at MCHS to 29/1, which would eliminate about four teaching positions ($200,000).

A lot of the discussion centered around a suggestion to cut a total of four music and physical education teachers from Pine Knot Primary and Pine Knot Intermediate School. That cut would save the District over $234,000.

Wright stated the suggestion was included because the Board asked him to include all cuts in schools that were over staffing allocations established by the Board.

Since enrollment at the two schools fell below the staffing guidelines, the cuts were included on the proposal.

Current policy dictates that any school with enrollment over 650 can be allocated one music and one physical education teacher. Both PKP and PKI do not meet that standard.

Wright stated he believed those positions were “very important” and advised the Board they had the option to revise the policy to keep those jobs.

Kidd and the Board agreed on the importance of keeping music and physical education in the schools, but were concerned about funding.

Kidd asked if the schools’ Site Based funding allocations would be enough to cover the salaries, but was informed that it would be impossible to cover the salaries with their current funding.

The Board opted to not include the cuts in the budget reduction, and will have to amend District policy to reflect a new minimum enrollment to keep the positions at the District level.

The Board did create two new School Resource Officer positions, as well as a new pre-school teacher and pre-school Instructional Assistant position (see related story).

All told, the Board reduced about $1,374,000 from the tentative budget, which would leave a surplus of about $429,000.

Following the presentation Board member Debbie Gibson motioned to approve the plan with the exception of the music/physical education teachers and a $7,815 cut in operating cost for the Exceptional Children program, with Kidd seconding the motion.

The vote passed 4-1, with Board member Roxanne Shook voting against.

Superintendent Wright had two additional proposals for reductions, but were not considered by the Board.

The proposals did not include cuts to extended days to administrators or elimination of jobs beyond the over allocation positions. They did reclassify funding sources for several positions.

One proposal did include the elimination of the Pine Knot Career Institute positions (Job Corps), while the second kept them intact with the implication that it was still possible to renew the agreement between the District and the program.

One proposal would produce a budget surplus of $91,343, while the other would still have a $38,638 deficit. Both proposals did include cutting the music and physical education positions, which were not approved by the Board, and would result in an added expense of about  $234,000 to be added to those plans.

Wright provided a brief comment Wednesday morning to state the cuts approved by the Board would have impacts throughout the District.

“We still have the same amount of duties to be accomplished, by less staff and with fewer days to be worked,” he said. “The Central Office and schools rely on each other, and these reductions will affect both ends of that and student achievement.”

Wright also stated that his original proposal to the Board at a prior meeting did result in a balanced budget, until the addition of new positions at the McCreary Academy were created by the Board.

The final budget will be approved in September after the Kentucky Department of Education approves it.

 

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