The Jefferson County school board got its first look at next year’s budget Monday, but state funding and results of an unfinished audit will likely force the district to make changes before it receives final approval in the fall.
“I think we’re being very optimistic,” says Cordelia Hardin, the chief financial officer who has helped craft over two dozen dozen budgets.
The 2014-2015 draft budget assumes lawmakers will approve nearly $300 million that the Kentucky Department of Education has requested, which would give JCPS around $4.4 million more toward its general fund. If granted by lawmakers this session, JCPS spending would be $16 million less than what the district would make in revenue, Hardin says.
But even if the General Assembly can agree to make education its priority, JCPS—which serves more than 100,000 students—will still have tough decisions to make, she says.
Since 2008, state grants alone have dropped by more than $11 million putting a larger strain on the local district and taxpayers to find JCPS intiatives.
Currently, around two-thirds of the $1 billion JCPS budget relies on local funds. When Kentucky passed its education reforms in 1990, state funds made up 54 percent of revenue, Hardin says. Now, it’s closer to one-third.
The budget presented to the board Monday does not include money for certain key initiatives and programs that JCPS has recently invested in, like the $7.5 million approved by the board last year for extended learning services for struggling students. It also does not include any new money for projects in the works, like the Schools of Innovation Design Competition that aims to create the next JCPS school.
The district also recognizes new challenges that are on the horizon, like how it will fund more early childhood education or serve an increasing population of non-native English speaking students.
The final draft budget—which is the first of three drafts before final board approval in the fall—must be approved by Jan. 27.
Whether JCPS will request a tax increase for residents this year is not yet clear, but Hardin recommends the district act to maintain its current level of funding and revenue through local means. This will partly depend on property assessments that will be completed later this year.
Plus, State Auditor Adam Edelen is currently conducting a massive audit of the school system which could uncover inefficiencies the district may want to address in the budget, Hardin says.
Over the next several months, JCPS will make adjustments to the budget as needed and propose to the board which programs should be cut, renovated or added.
Board members expressed concern with having adequate data for the programs that exist, including the extended learning services that were piloted this year.
“We have to know that it’s having an impact,” says board member David Jones Jr.
JCPS officials say there are hundreds of programs throughout the district and there has already been efforts to cut programs and find efficiencies within administration that could save money which needs to be spent in classrooms.
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