By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Carter County might be ending this year with a budget surplus, but finance director Andy Lyons said the county could see their spending exceeding their income in the next budget year, if they continue as they are.
The reason for this is a change to the formula being used to determine the district’s funding. Because of the pandemic funding was frozen at the 2019 enrollment numbers. The funding was also coming in for every student, regardless of whether they were in the classroom, participating in online classes, or taking time off because they were sick.
But moving forward, Lyons explained, funding will be based on not only current enrollment – which has dropped – but on the number of bodies in seats.
There is some discussion of changing this, and basing funding purely on enrollment numbers and not attendance; in part to prevent another pandemic. But even if that change is made, the district has a shrinking population, so they are going to be losing the level of funding they’ve been receiving.
He said that’s why the draft budget he was presenting to the board was “very important.”
Despite rising costs due to inflation last year leading to going over budget on maintenance, they were under budget on both payroll and transportation. They ended the year $305,000 under budget, and with a projected ending balance of $5.9 million.
But that surplus won’t last long with the changes to the schools funding. While Lyons said there may be some variance, there won’t be significant changes to the amounts collected from local property taxes. The biggest changes will be associated with those changes to state funding.
He said he expects the district to lose up to $1.3 million in Student Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding because of the lower enrollment.
If the district makes no changes to their current salary schedules and spending, he said, they will spend more than they take in next year.
The board accepted Lyons’ report and draft budget, with board chair Lisa Ramey-Easterling thanking him for his work.
In other action board members Chris Perry and Miranda Tussey were sworn in for another term. Perry also moved to reappoint Ramey-Easterling chair and Rachel Fankell vice-chair.
During his report Superintendent Dr. Paul Green recognized the board for their work as January is Board Appreciation Month.
Green also recognized technology director Barrett Bush with the Bill Stillwell Award – noting he omitted his own name from a list of honorees recognized at the last board meeting when presenting technology awards, and that Bush was supposed to have been honored with one of the state recognitions as well.
The board also heard an instructional update from chief academic officer Dr. Jennifer Fraley, who reported on the use of the iReady software suite for identifying areas of instructional need.
“We’re lucky to have the iReady suite of tools (to help with diagnostics),” she said. “It helps identify concrete things we need to be doing with our students (to help them succeed).”
Fraley also reported on the establishment of a testing center for students who otherwise do their schoolwork from home as part of the Carter Virtual Academy.
The board also moved to amend their calendar, moving their site based meeting for West to their October meeting, for East to November, and moving their December meeting back to December 18.
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