Approximately 50 non-renewal notices have been sent out to employees of Perry County Schools, said Superintendent John Paul Amis.
Amis cited a reduction in flexible focus funds from the state in the amount of $578,000 for the next budget, which officials continue to work on for the next school year and must submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education by the end of this month, as one reason for the cuts. Flexible focus funds pay for programs such as preschool, professional development and extended school services, the latter of which is used to allow individual time for students who may be struggling in a given subject.
But it was the non-renewal notices for employees, such as many aides who work with special needs students, that had some parents concerned at last week’s board of education meeting.
Amis said the notices constituted the “the most we have sent in many, many years,” but noted at the meeting last week that because these employees received a notice it doesn’t necessarily mean all of them won’t be returning. He commented that due to budget concerns those notices were a necessity, but that didn’t make the decision to issue them any easier.
“None of these cuts were easy,” he told parents at the meeting.
In addition to the cuts in flex funds, Amis noted that the state legislature mandated a one percent raise for teachers, for which the districts around Kentucky will receive funding, but that the legislature didn’t take into account that many teachers within the school district will also be receiving an increase in their salary due to achieving an increase in tenure or rank, which with nearly 1,000 employees costs the district approximately $250,000 each year.
Adding those costs with the rising price of fuel for a fleet of school buses and a resulting increase in the cost of food services, and officials are looking for ways to find $1 million in the budget that simply isn’t there.
Despite the lack of funds, officials with the district are mandated to present a balanced budget to the board by June 1 that contains a two percent contingency fund. If that two percent is not included the district goes on a state watch list.
“To meet this deadline we did what we had to do, and it was painful,” Amis said.
In Perry County the biggest cuts in personnel came with aides, Amis said, which cut ESS positions in the county’s elementary schools. While teachers didn’t receive notices due to budgetary concerns, Amis commented that cuts in that area came through attrition with retiring teachers whose positions will not be filled upon their retirement.
Cuts in personnel were a forgone conclusion with a school district that employs many. “Seventy-five percent of our budget is tied up in personnel,” Amis said. “If you have drastic cuts to the budget, you have to have cuts to personnel.”
Amis said a solution to the budget concerns would be for the legislature to increase funding for education, but that the state “did not take the action they needed to take to generate revenue for education” in the past session of the General Assembly.
Amis said he is not advocating any political issues raised during the last session as ways to raise more revenue, but that the budget passed this year is a on a two-year cycle and if more revenue for education is not generated the concerns will continue into the following school year as well.
“It’s not going to get any better until Frankfort does something to generate more revenue,” he said.
While the Perry County School District is dealing with its own budgetary concerns, many other districts are doing the same. According to news stories from across the state, districts are facing severe budget reductions. In the Caverna Independent School District, officials are looking at a loss of $63,000. In Daviess County news reports indicate the county school district has spent an additional $120,000 on fuel alone. In Casey County programs are being cut. In Campbell County teacher positions are reportedly set to be cut. Reports from Hopkins County note that 32 teachers and 41 classified employees have received non-renewal notices.
“I’ve been doing this job for 14 years,” Amis told parents last week. “And this year is by far the toughest with personnel.”
Amis told parents last week, and reiterated Monday, that people need to let the legislators know of their concerns and the need for more educational funding. Amis added that he understands that legislators face tough decisions in Frankfort, but education simply needs more money.