BY MIKE JAMES
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLAND Several area school districts had planned to introduce draft budgets early next week, but those spending plans have gone into the shredder since Gov. Matt Bevin proposed steep cuts in state education funding Tuesday.
School finance officials now are working overtime to reconcile the potential cuts with their spending needs.
Draft budgets are preliminary plans that virtually always are modified later in the year. They provide school boards an initial blueprint from which they develop working budgets for the following school year.
Districts are required by state law to approve them by the end of January.
“What happened with the governor has flipped everything upside down,” said Russell chief financial officer Dennis Chambers.
Chambers and his counterparts in other districts are searching frantically for ways to comply with the cuts Bevin wants to impose.
Their job is made harder because the cuts are not just steep but in some cases completely unexpected.
“Things that have been in the budget year after year, you’re expecting them to be there,” said Greenup County business manager Scott Burchett.
The Greenup board meets Monday and will discuss its draft plan but discussions will predominate in the district office between now and May, when the General Assembly will have completed its budget work and approved a plan — which may or may not reflect Bevin’s proposal.
“We’ve got to make plans so we’ll be talking about the budget all the time,” Burchett said.
His district has faced some dramatic cuts in the 20 years he has been there, but Bevin’s proposal would provide no funding for textbooks or professional development for teachers and slashes transportation funding by 62 percent.
Districts also are expecting cuts in grant-funded programs such as the family resource and youth service centers.
The transportation cuts alone would cost the Boyd County district more than half a million dollars, finance director Don Fleu said. The cut would be on top of a shortfall between state aid and district transportation costs of about another half-million dollars, he said.
Bevin claims his plan doesn’t impact classrooms, but Fleu is skeptical about that. “If we have to have $500,000 for transportation, it’s got to come from somewhere,” he said. And that somewhere might be the classroom, he said.
The Boyd board meets Tuesday and was expecting to approve its draft budget. “We have a draft budget prepared, but I’m going to tell the board they might as well not even look at it,” Fleu said.
The document is “useless,” he said, because so many areas are subject to potential cuts. In previous years, a shortfall in a critical area could be offset by moving money from a less-critical area, “but in this case, there is no offset,” he said.
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