Knox Schools to face $2.4 million cut

While it’s too soon to know exactly what the numbers will look like, the 2018-19 draft budget was the primary focus at the special called January 29 Knox County Public School board meeting. If finance officer Gertrude Smith’s projections are correct, the school district will need to come up with over $2.4 million dollars and, like so many across Kentucky, may be in trouble.

Smith stated in her presentation that several of the changes made in the Governor’s proposal are “pretty detrimental to school districts,” Knox included.

Some funding decreases or changes Smith discussed include:

  • $875,000 decrease each year for transportation funds taken from SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funding.
  • $81,900 decrease for technology.
  • $168,000 decrease for instructional resources and professional development.
  • Approximately $335,000 decrease for health insurance plans.
  • County retirement rate increase from 19 percent to 28 percent, approximately $678,000.
  • State program reduction of at least 6.25 percent, or approximately a $31,000 reduction in family resource center funds.
  • Funding for K-TIP will be eliminated, almost $25,000 for Knox County.

Smith noted that while the proposed budget strips or reduces funding for school programs and resources, the requirements are still in place, meaning school districts such as Knox have to come up with the money to pay for the programs.

“They haven’t taken away the requirements. That’s the thing with all of these, there’s requirements but there’s either no funding or reduction in funding for them. All those that I have listed is over $2.4 million per year. That does not include Kentucky teacher retirement or any other program that might be reduced,” said Smith. “There’s a lot of counties that don’t have these big reserves and we don’t have enough to carry this. In a year, a year and a half, we wouldn’t have any money. We would be broke.”

Smith also noted several programs have already received mid-year reductions.

“That means general fund. We have to pick [those expenses] up because they’re contract salary people,” continued Smith, who noted that cost alone is over $100,000.

Smith was very transparent that the budget presented to the board is only a draft and there is currently not a whole lot of information available about funding. By April, Smith said her team will know more about what is actually going to pass and will make changes to the budget accordingly.

“I’m optimistic that as it goes through the Legislature, it won’t be as drastic as we see. I know over the next few days as it goes through the House and the Senate, I’m hopeful they’ll put a lot of that back in. As it stands right now, it would be devastating. We’re in better shape than a lot of districts but everyone is going to feel the pain,” said Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles.

If the budget passes as it currently stands, Knox will have to take from across the board to cover the more than $2.4 million in cuts.

“We’ll have to look at every program, we’ll have to look at staffing, obviously we’ll have to look at transportation. It will definitely impact every facet of our school system,” continued Sprinkles.

Also discussed at the meeting was the Lynn Camp Softball restroom project. Only two bids were received and both were rejected. Instead, the board decided to contact the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to self-perform the entire project.

“What we’re facing here, this is roughly a 12,000-square foot building and the lowest bid was $186,000. See how ridiculous that is?” said board member Gordon Hinkle, noting the price per square foot would be $302. “I need to get in the building business at that rate.”

The next step is to schedule a working session and draft a letter to KDE. The board hopes construction will start by March or April this year.