The Fayette County Board of Education voted 3-2 at Monday night's meeting to approve a tentative budget for fiscal year 2012-13, following months of examination of various options for reducing costs to maintain a balanced budget.
One of the cuts in the budget is to the supplemental health and dental benefits in the amount of $71 and $22 a month, respectively, per employee. In the tentative budget, this supplement would be taken away starting in July, after which employees will need to carry those costs themselves. The school system will also stop providing life insurance and long term disability plans.
According to school system public information officer Melinda Berry-Dreisbach, those benefits are funded through the end of the calendar year, and employees will need to decide during the next open enrollment period whether they would like to pay themselves to retain those benefits or forego them.
Another proposal for budget savings had been to cut some of the assistant principal positions down from full time to part time. This option was particularly unappealing to parents, many of whom came out to voice their opposition. Over 240 residents signed a petition to maintain a full time assistant principal position at Tyrone Elementary. The board decided to fund those positions, meaning Brooks and Tyrone Elementary will retain a full time assistant principal.
Two board members, Dr. Bob Todd and Marion Key, voted against the budget and voiced their displeasure with the process of addressing future problems. "We've spent all of our fund balance as a result of this year's budget, so there won't be anything left for next year.... we do not even have preliminary projections for what it would take to close this $15 million shortfall for FY '14. I hope seriously that we start to take the steps in that process," said Dr. Todd.
That $15 million shortfall refers to the drawing down of the board's fund balance to make up for the difference of $178 million in '12-'13 expenses versus $163 million in expected revenues, which will leave only about $67,000 in the fund balance.
Superintendent Jeff Bearden and his staff have already worked out over $11 million in cost cutting measures, including cuts to the operating budget, staff cuts via attrition, and a reduction in the number of school days. Nonetheless, the budget picture looks very tight for next year, and that has put several schools on the list for possible closure.
Board member Marion Key was largely in agreement with Todd in her opposition to the budget, saying the particulars of the budget came out in a piecemeal fashion, without any clear, comprehensive picture being presented.
Board chairman Leonard Presberg was a bit perplexed by the points being brought up by Todd and Key, asking for clarification. "So you're saying there's a process problem with the timing of the budget?.... to go through a whole process of six months of talking about an issue and to get to this point and hear 'I'm not going to vote on that' and not hearing ideas or alternatives makes it very difficult for me to know what you want me to do or advocate for."
Todd and Key then both referenced
--See BOE, page and we know the impact that has on them, but in order to protect students, protect jobs, that's what I thought I needed to do in the proposed budget."
The official vote to approve this tentative budget will take place at the next scheduled Board of Education meeting.