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Millions in cuts facing Fayette BOE

There is just no telling what the Fayette County Board of Education might come up with in terms of a budget for FY 2011 that begins July 1. But based on the current financial outlook and recommendations from Superintendent John DeCotis that budget, when tentatively approved by the board in mid-June, will have to have another $6.4 million shaved off in addition to the more than $6 million he recommended Tuesday night.

School system Comptroller Laura Brock at the May 4 meeting told board members they could see revenues next year totaling $172.1 million, an amount down significantly from the $185.5 million where the school system began the year last July. But over the course of the year the general fund budget had been trimmed to about $179 million, as of April, through various cost-cutting measures that included a 4.5 percent pay cut to school system staff that generated approximately $5.5 million in savings.

Brock’s figures showed that regardless the previous cuts, falling revenues would still leave the school system short several million dollars. Brock also said the school system is still projecting a June 30 fund balance of $14.9 million by virtue of the various cost cuts.

DeCotis on May 4 recommended a relatively wide array of cuts designed to generate $6.1 million in savings. Among the categories were: a $2.144 million hit to various school system departments; $1.507 million to non-departmental areas; the savings of $132,000 by eliminating middle school resource officers; $63,000 in transportation by consolidating some bus routes and charging a $5 fee for sports and high school band participation; and $2.12 million in staffing reductions in central office, elementary, middle and high schools based on attrition and student population figures.

DeCotis was prepared to address additional cost savings measures that included personnel reductions, decreasing the school year by four days, increasing staff benefits contributions, reducing additional supplements, combining middle and high school bus routes and charging tuition for the children of employees that attend Fayette schools. Those issues, however, were not discussed.

The discussion turned to Chairman Terri Smith initiating a conversation that centered on the desire to be able to return the 4.5 percent pay cut to employees that came about last year “under the pressure to build the fund balance.”

Her comment led to a lengthy discussion on that issue, but no outcome. Smith in her comments did note that she likely threw Brock an unexpected curve in bring up the issue.

Bottom line, the board can accept DeCotis’ recommendations to cut more than $6 million from areas across the school system, but they will still need to come up with another $6.4 million in cuts, either by reducing the year end fund balance or, as Smith said, by other means.

The board will need to adopt a tentative budget in mid-June and approve it by June 29.

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