Daviess Co. leaders criticize General Assembly for funding cuts, mandated expenses; board member: "Kentucky public education is not fully funded...it's preposterous"

Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Sept. 21, 2016

State shorting local schools more than $12.5 million, board says
By Keith Lawrence

The Daviess County Public Schools district is anticipating revenues of $114.88 million this year.

But board members aren't happy with that number.

It would be at least $12.5 million a year higher if the Kentucky General Assembly hadn't been cutting spending on education through the years, members say.

The district lost $578,818 in state money this year, because the state reduces its payments to school districts with strong growth in property assessments.

Local property assessments in the county district increased 5.2 percent this year.

Board Chairman Frank Riney said state budget cuts through the years have cut $10 million a year in state aid to the district.

"Look what kind of shape we'd be in if we had that money," he said Tuesday.

"We need to continue to hit on the fact that Kentucky public education is not fully funded," board member Tom Payne said. "When you have to find creative ways (like fundraisers) to fund the basic things, it's preposterous."

Matt Robbins, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said the board also loses $2.5 million a year for transportation that state government should be providing.

"State law says that any student who lives more than a mile from their school shall be transported," he said. "But the state isn't paying the full cost of transportation. We're being shorted $2.5 million every year in the cost of transportation."

Superintendent Owens Saylor said county schools are also being charged an extra $1 million a year for teacher retirement.

"It's real money you're being shorted," Robbins told board members.

"When we have to continue to burden people with more taxes, it's not right," Riney said. "Some of our families are really struggling."

Last month, the board voted to raise its property tax from the current 63.3 cents per $100 of property value to 64.8 cents.

That's an increase of 2.36 percent, but it will produce 4 percent more revenue -- about $1.64 million for the system's general fund and $266,592 for the building fund.

For the owner of a $100,000 home, it will mean a $15 per year increase in school taxes -- from $633 to $648.

"We're not offering Olympic pools in every school," Payne said. "We're covering basic needs. We're not asking for a Cadillac. A good Chevrolet will do."

Riney said he doesn't expect to see more aid from Frankfort.

"The state is in dire straits," he said. "Our economy is not strong."

"We're supposed to see a free public education in Kentucky," Payne said. "But I don't see anything free."

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