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School boards send message to state leaders

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Hoping that there is strength in numbers, school districts throughout Kentucky are being asked to tell legislators how difficult it is becoming to handle the cuts being made by the state.

Bullitt County superintendent Keith Davis and finance officer Denise Smith are not bashful about telling anyone who will listen about the affects continued shortfalls would cause.

Smith said that the state legislature looks at the fund balances being carried over each year. School districts are required to have at least a 2 percent contingency fund.

However, she said that the belief of some legislators might be that since the districts run with a surplus, state funding is not as critical.

Over the past few years, Smith said the district’s carryover to the new fiscal year has decreased.

The contingency fund in the proposed 2011-12 budget is sitting at .2 percent, said Smith. By the time the budget is actually approved, Smith said she would have to get back up to the state minimum of 2 percent.

In reality, Smith said the contingency fund would cover about one week of normal expenses.

The district had planned to use the federal EduJobs funds to provide several projects. However, she feared that the state is looking for the districts to use those funds to cover shortfalls in funding.

Bullitt County has seen a lot of growth, according to Smith. In 2001, the district carryover was $1.3 million. This year, the carryover was $9.6 million, which is down $1.5 million from two years ago.

Davis, who spent several years as finance director prior to being selected superintendent, said that there is no extra money sitting around.

For years, the district has been conservative in its spending while still being aggressive on programs that would help student learning.

Instead of praising school districts for being conservative on its spending, Davis said the legislature looks at it as the surplus funds are a way to help when the state cuts its funding.

At times in the past, there had been some rumors that the state wanted to take the excess funds from the local districts.

With the steady growth, even in slow times, Davis said Bullitt County is continuing to move forward.

“We’re here to educate,” said Davis. “If we didn’t spend the money, we wouldn’t be making the gains.”

Still, the county per pupil funding is 169th out of 174 districts in the state.

If the district received the average per pupil rate from Frankfort, Davis said there would be another $12 million to spend.

Davis said all comments and concerns would be sent to the Kentucky School Board Association. He expected some type of meeting in the future to lay out all the comments and suggestions.