Montgomery Co. superintendent discusses pension, budget cut concerns at board meeting; says financial implications for many school districts are "catastrophic"

Mt. Sterling Advocate, Oct. 5, 2017

Thompson addresses pension issue at school board meeting

By Tom Marshall

Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Matt Thompson addressed the state’s pension crisis and how it will impact the district during the most recent board of education meeting Sept. 26.

A proposed increase in the district’s contributions to the County Employees Retirement System (CERS), the board was told, would come to $560,000.

This does not include any potential increases in employers contributions to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), Thompson said.

Thompson told the Advocate that the district received a letter from John Chilton, state budget director, Sept. 9 providing information regarding a substantial increase in the percentage required in employer contribution for the CERS.

CERS, Thompson explained, is the retirement system that applies to most of the district’s classified employees.

Currently, the district is required to pay 19.18 percent of the classified payroll. For the next school year (fiscal year 2019), the percentage could rise to 28.86.

“Even after working incredibly hard last year to revise our budget and cut expenditures, this anticipated extra cost for the next fiscal year is not something that we will easily be able to absorb,” Thompson said.

“Between this CERS increase, past unfunded mandates, the overall state pension crisis and the requested 17.4 percent budget reductions asked for by the state, the financial implications for many school districts across the commonwealth are catastrophic,” he added.

Thompson said the budget reduction plan (required due to the 17.4 percent reduction of all state agencies/departments) submitted by the Kentucky Dept. of Education (KDE) to the state budget office would cause school districts to face reductions in funds for teacher professional development and student textbooks.

“While these reductions will be difficult, they are manageable,” Thompson said. “However, if the state budget office rejects KDE’s budget reduction plan and requires a larger financial reduction, I do not see how districts will be able to avoid reducing direct services to students.”

In other action, the board:
• Heard from Camargo Elementary School principal Dorothy Dennie and assistant principal Dudley Napier as part of a school spotlight.

Dennie told the board that Camargo Elementary has “a unique population with unique needs.

“We’re a school of perseverance,” she added.

Dennie highlighted the enrichment courses being offered this year for the third and fourth grade students and the community connections being made between the school and local organizations and businesses.

She discussed the recent Wild West Day and Back to School Bash that included “The Great Amazing Camargo Race” theme.

Among the items highlighted were the results from a survey through the Kentucky Center for School Safety that found 94 percent of students trusted adults at school and 95 percent reported that school staff treat them with respect.

Dennie also discussed results from the TELL survey of school staff that, she said, show a strong working relationship between staff and administrators.

Areas where the school will continue working, Dennie said, are small group instruction, reading comprehension strategies, the enrichment program, strengthening the school’s Response to Intervention (RTI), data collection and Student Assistance Team (SAT) process.

Dennie said the school will continue to be a school of perseverance.

A group of fourth grade students led the audience through the pledge of allegiance to open the meeting by signing the words. They also explained what each part of the pledge means.

• During the superintendent’s report portion of the meeting, Thompson highlighted some of the things going on within the school system.
Thompson noted that the boys’ golf team had won the regional tournament and the girls’ team had placed second in the region. Both qualified for the state tournament.

He also announced that Camargo Elementary had the highest attendance rate in the district and was winner on “High Attendance Day” that was held recently.

• Approved a working budget.

• Approved a measure that would ask the Kentucky Dept. of Education to reconvene the Local Planning Committee.

• Approved a Mapleton Elementary School Gym HVAC replacement bid award recommendation and revised BG-1.

• Approved a BG-1 authorization for work on the welding shop.

• Observed a moment of silence in memory of bus drivers Brenda Sorrell and Marlene Penix, who recently died.

The board will meet again in regular session 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in the cafeteria at Montgomery County High School. Meetings are open to the public.

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