Thursday, October 23, 2014

Board of Ed. gets first look at $170 million budget for 2015


By Josh Akeman

The Fayette County Board of Education got their first look Monday at next year's$170 million budget.
The budget anticipates roughly $4 million in increased revenues over last year, Deputy Superintendent Tom Gray explained, with a roughly $7 million increase in expenditures over last year's budget of about $163 million.
The important distinction this budget carries is a healthy fund balance, projected to be something around $19 million at the end of FY 2015.
Last year's school closures and staff reductions were made with an eye toward balancing the budget and preventing the system from going in the red.
Dan Colwell, who served as interim superintendent for six months during which the austerity cuts were made by the board, had hoped the district would be able eventually to establish a reserve fund at 10-percent of the overall budget.
That goal was attained rapidly, as this budget calls for a 10-percent reserve of approximately $17 million and anticipates an additional fund balance of around $2 million, or around $19 million in all. Colwell will get to vote on this budget as Monday was his first meeting as the newest member of the board, having been appointed to the Post 2 seat in place of Mary Kay Bacallao, who left to run for State Superintendent.
Gray said property tax revenues are expected to increase around $2.1 million over FY 2014.
"That's even though we're planning for the digest to be flat," Gray said, "because last year we expected it to be down about two-percent."
Gray also said he's anticipating a higher collection rate this year than in past years.
Gray explained that the district anticipates a $1.4 million overall increase in QBE dollars from the state. While the QBE gross earnings to the county are going down, the QBE austerity reduction is also being reduced by about a third, which along with an increase in another QBE category accounts for the net increase in funding.
With all revenue categories accounted for, the expectation is a revenue increase of around 2.65-percent over FY 2014 which amounts to roughly $4.3 million.
As per usual, the largest chunk of expenses by far is in instruction, which is bumping up from around $111.2 million in FY 2014 to $115.8 million in FY 2015, accounting for about 68-percent of the total budget in both years.
Gray explained that some of the increases in this year's budget include a fully restored 180 day calendar, some added positions including parapros and counselors, a 1.5-percent across the board pay increase and some changes in pay scales.
Board member Leonard Presberg said he had been asked by several people how much would be budgeted for the district's ongoing appeal of the NAACP lawsuit over district voting.
Gray explained that approximately $300,000 was budgeted for legal fees, if needed.
Superintendent Dr. Jody Barrow commented "I think that's a safe number."
The school board plans to vote on a final budget at its June 16 meeting and will establish a millage rate in August.


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