Education

Jefferson County Public Schools’ 2019-2020 budget is expected to grow by about 2 percent from the previous year. That’s according to the district’s tentative budget plan; the JCPS Board of Education discussed the plan at its Tuesday night work session.

The budget is currently projected to have a $6.6 million shortfall, which may be made up in full or in part by an expected rise in property values.

“Remember we are looking at a tentative budget — by very nature and by name, it is tentative,” said board member Chris Brady.

The tentative budget would expand a number of programs to benefit students and help meet the district’s strategic plans. Some of the largest new expenses from expanded services include hiring new mental health practitioners and special education staff.

As some board members noted, the budget does not include funding for an in-house security team that the district had discussed earlier this year. Superintendent Marty Pollio said JCPS will consider that addition in the future, but that it was an undertaking the district does not “want to rush.”

The budget must also account for higher payroll costs – including $12.9 million for standard raises based on experience and a $3.4 million cost-of-living adjustment – as well as a $5 million rise in pension costs for non-teaching staff enrolled in the County Employee Retirement System. The Board approved those allocations in January.

The Board also approved a facilities plan earlier this year to build three elementary schools and make major renovations to other buildings. That construction will begin next year and will be financed with local bonds, paid back over the coming 20 years. JCPS spokeswoman Renee Murphy said those construction costs will not affect the general fund. The district is well within its bonding capacity, according to Murphy.

Pollio said the budget will include cuts to some programs, but would not specify which when speaking to reporters. He said JCPS might consider changes to the salary structure for new hires.

“This is going to be a multi-year process to get to where we need to be,” Pollio said. “We’re going to make some recommendations to our board in the near future about some changes so we can repurpose funds.”

Budget Growth And The Bottom Line

In total, the district’s $1.7 billion budget for 2019-2020 is expected to grow by about $36 million compared to the current school year.

Meanwhile, the state’s share in per-student SEEK funding is expected to decrease, continuing a trend of the past three years. The funding equation puts more responsibility on local tax revenue to fund schools as local property values rise.

The tentative budget notes that the district expects to save on a number of line items this coming year. However, the budget plan projects that expenses may still outweigh revenue by a $6.6 million deficit, as confirmed by a JCPS spokeswoman.

If local tax revenue does not rise enough to cover the district’s expenses, JCPS can dip into reserve funds or the school board could consider increasing local tax rates.

Jefferson County’s property tax assessments are expected to rise, according to Even Westphal of the Property Valuation Administrator’s office, but the specific values will not be released until later this week.

The JCPS school board will vote on a final budget in May. Depending on the final budget and local property assessments collected in July, the Board may consider tax rate adjustments in August.

Expanded Programs In The JCPS Budget

While it is important to note that a rise in payroll expenses accounts for much of the budget’s expected growth, the district is also considering investing more in these programs:

New Expenses

    • $7.5 million for Exceptional Child Education implementation coaches
    • $4.4 million for the addition of mental health practitioners
    • $1.5 million focused certified instruction
    • $1.2 million for Backpack League summer learning program
    • $753,000 for additional ECE teachers and assistants
    • $345,000 to hire middle school athletic directors
    • $255,000 for implicit bias training

Increases

    • $700,000 increase to expand the MAP universal screener to grades 9-12
    • $700,000 increase to expand WEB DuBois Academy from 6th grade to 6-7th grade
    • $490,00 increase for Compassionate Schools
    • $272,070 increase Girls Street Academy
    • $100,000 increase REACH summer enrichment

This post has been updated.

Liz Schlemmer is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.