Gov. Steve Beshear requested the cuts be made across the board last week. He has requested that reports from all state agencies and public universities describing how the cuts will affect them be submitted by Dec. 5, while State Education Commissioner Jon Draud requested a similar report from school superintendents be submitted by noon on Dec. 3 so he can decide how cuts in the Education Department can be made to achieve the 4 percent decrease.
School officials in the Hazard and Perry County school districts say the 4 percent cut will affect programs and personnel if passed.
“When you look at budget cuts like that you are looking at positions and programs. It has to have a negative effect on everybody in education,” Perry County Schools Superintendent John Paul Amis, said.
Reducing the budget by 4 percent in the Perry County School District would mean cutting $750,000 from their general fund and $75,000 in their ESS program, preschool, and professional development fund, which totals about $825,000 overall.
Amis says it is going to be tough cutting that much from the budget in the middle of the fiscal year.
“We are in the middle of the fiscal year so if this goes through that means we somehow are going to have to cut spending by $825,000 between now and the end of this fiscal year, June 30,” he said.
The Hazard Independent School System is looking at a $180,000 reduction in their general fund, and it’s a cut that Superintendent Sandra Johnson says the board will be able to absorb some of for a short time.
“We are in a better condition than some districts. I have said since I became superintendent, a rainy day will come so we have to save for it, and we have built our fund balance to absorb some of this to have less of an impact than some other districts will,” Johnson said. “But our balance is not large enough to carry this for a long time without impacting the education we are providing.”
Johnson says the board has tried to absorb the impact of the cuts that were made for the current year by supplementing them with SEEK - Support Education Excellence in Kentucky - funds. These funds provide operating money for public schools and will be among those that can be cut during this reduction, and Johnson says doing this will decrease the services children are receiving.
Johnson says the ESS program took a tremendous cut between 2007 and the current year, but services to their students in that area were not reduced because the school district used SEEK funds and were able to leave the program unchanged.
“Cuts in SEEK funds are going to cut services children are receiving. We are looking at cuts in programs, services, and instructional materials, and with a four percent reduction that puts us looking at staffing also,” Johnson said. “As far as staffing goes we have no fat to trim.”
The Kentucky Department of Education manages the nearly $4 billion budget of state funding that goes to local school districts, and this is why Amis says he wasn’t surprised when he received the e-mail from Commissioner Draud last week asking them to create a report detailing what their district would have to give up or reduce as a result of the cuts.
“I wasn’t shocked. Revenue is down. We knew we were going to get some kind of directive to reduce spending. We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know how much,” he said.
School districts must begin preparing their budgets for the next fiscal year in January, and if the four percent cuts are passed it will make it harder for some, Amis added.
“Unless they do something to generate revenue we are going to be stuck with these cuts. School districts have to have a balanced budget and a 2 percent contingency, and we have always been able to do that. Two percent of our contingency is around $800,000,” Amis said. “It will eat up our contingency, which means when we are doing our budget for next year we will be starting at ground zero. There are going to be some tough decisions made by districts for next year.”
Other programs and services that will be affected by the four-percent reduction are the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, the eight state universities and Medicaid.