Fayette school system’s cost-cutting committee downsizes budget targets

Cost savings of $3 million instead of $5 million are more realistic for this year’s school system budget, Fayette County Assistant Superintendent Sam Sweat told members of the Board of Education at the Oct. 15 meeting.

Among the various cost-saving measures underway in the Fayette County School System are the efforts of a committee to shave current expenses to help offset up to a $20 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

While the committee’s work is continuing and will be ready with final recommendations in December, the committee thought more could be saved, but now feels like $3 million is a more realistic goal, Sweat said.

Sweat said the committee is reviewing expenses and purchase orders every two weeks and is conducting a number of internal studies aimed at determining additional cost-saving measures.

A spending freeze for all departments has been underway since early September and all hiring has been suspended unless approved by Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

The $3 million in projected savings does not include money saved in personnel, such as those cases where staff retire and their budgeted positions are either not filled or filled with a part-time person.

“Hopefully, the personnel savings will meet or exceed $3 million,” said Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

Another aspect of the cost-cutting measures includes being more aware of energy-use by turning off lights when not in use, consolidating microwave ovens and refrigerators to centralized locations, limiting the irrigation of athletic fields to two times per week and moving students into main buildings rather than being placed in trailers.

A sampling of the committee’s priorities include protecting student learning and achievement, harboring no “sacred cows,” favoring long-term gains over short-term reductions, examining 12-month contracts, reviewing staff allotments, reviewing the size of central office, maximizing revenues, reviewing a tuition policy for non-residents and remembering that “business as usual” cannot be the mindset.

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