Calloway Co. board approves working budget that's likely to change, while superintendent says he is asking administrators to study ways the district can "live leaner and be as efficient as we can"

Ledger & Times, Murray, Sept. 15, 2017

Calloway County Board of Education approves working budget for ‘18 year

By Jordan Ferguson

In light of proposed cuts at the state level, the Calloway County School District passed a working budget Thursday night during their regular monthly meeting at Calloway County High School.

Calloway County Superintendent Tres Settle said a budget for the 2018 fiscal year must be submitted by Sept. 30, but that proposed reductions to Kentucky’s Department of Education would not be known until Sept. 25. In light of this information, he asked the board to approve a working budget on the understanding that it would likely need to be amended in the near future.

“I am asking tonight for you to pass the working budget that you have before you,” Settle said. “It is no different than the tentative budget that we discussed a couple months back. I received information late last week that (Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin) had ordered a 17.4 percent reduction from a myriad of state agencies, and one of those was the Kentucky Department of Education. In that same notice, I was informed that our SEEK funding would not be touched, or I was promised that it would not be touched, but that doesn’t really mean anything to me and it shouldn’t mean anything to you as far as the tentative budget goes because any cut in education impacts the bottom line. When you don’t cut from one area but you cut from another, then you have to use these monies to cover those monies and it is a trickle-down effect.

“By statute we have to, as a board, give the state our budget by Sept. 30. However, I won’t know what KDE’s cuts are until Sept. 25. Therefore I can’t make any changes to my working budget until I know what the commissioner is going to do. So to be in compliance, I am asking you to pass a working budget that is likely to change at some point in the near future when I get more information.”

Settle commented on the current pension issue that has been at the forefront of many teachers’ minds recently. The issue was even brought to the attention of the board by Gwenda Wilhelm and Noraa Ransey, the president and secretary, respectively, of the Calloway County Education Association. Settle said the situation in Frankfort has many people feeling stressed.

“It is a very frustrating time, not only with our pension issues at hand, but we have lots of things going on in Frankfort right now, and lots of tough decisions that are going to have to be made,” Settle said.

“Unfortunately for us, as a local board, we just passed a 4 percent increase in our taxes last month; this keeps getting pushed down to the local level. What I am hearing is, ‘We are going to do this without raising any taxes.’ Well, when you don’t send money down from the state level to local districts, they have no choice but to raise local taxes. That comes back and falls on you. So it is a very frustrating cycle that continues to be, and we will just do the best we can.”

The need for the district to come up with ways to make dollars go further was brought up again in Settle’s report toward the end of the meeting. He said he and school administrators in the district would be meeting to discuss ways for the district to live leaner.

“We will be beginning a new book study together as administrators, this year focused on teamwork and team building,” Settle said. “It is timely because I will probably share some information with them tomorrow that will get us started right off on our mission of teamwork in that we will have to find out how we are going to live by slimmer means.

“Somehow, this 17.4 percent cut will trickle down to us and it will affect our programs. We just don’t know where they are yet. But I will be relying on my administrators to give me guidance on how we can live leaner and be as efficient as we can, and as frugal with taxpayer dollars as we can. This board made a difficult decision not a year ago when we cut $800,000 out of our budget. It is going to get very tough again to find the kind of money that they may be talking about.”

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