JCPS school board approves $1.4 billion budget for 2016-17
JCPS approved a $1.4 billion tentative budget for the 2016-17 year on Monday night, including a last minute $5 million line item to help schools better manage student behavior.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Board of Education approved a $1.4 billion tentative budget for the 2016-17 year on Monday night, including a last minute $5 million line item to help schools better manage student behavior.
The move comes after a long year of complaints from parents, teachers, staff members and community members over discipline issues at the district's 155 schools. It also comes at a time when student suspensions and referrals have skyrocketed.
The school board voted 6-0 to approve the tentative budget, which starts July 1. School board member Stephanie Horne was absent.
Superintendent Donna Hargens said she wasn't immediately sure how the $5 million would be spent, only that she will work with her staff to "bring specifics back to board" that are centered on "engaged learners and appropriate behavior."
"We want to invest our time, talent and resources in proactive interventions so our students can be successful," Hargens said, adding that she will be convening a group of colleagues and experts to help craft and implement a new behavior system for JCPS.
"(It) will be responsive to teachers and students and hold us all accountable," she said.
Tom Hudson, the district's chief business officer, said the $5 million will initially come out of the district's contingency funds so that its budget will be balanced when it's submitted to the state at the end of the month.
The last minute move by Hargens to add the $5 million to the district's budget was made after a work session earlier in the evening in which school board chairman David Jones Jr. questioned whether the district was spending enough money to address student behavior. At that point, only $500,000 in incremental spending had been allotted.
"That’s not enough given the concerns we have all heard, the disruption we all strongly perceive is going on in schools," Jones said.
He said he didn't know if more money would change behavior, but that "if it would, this board member would vote to raise taxes and get monies for that purpose."
"We need to calm things down…before we have much success on deeper learning," he said.
Before the school board voted on the budget, they heard from some teachers and community members.
Tammy Berlin, vice president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said the tentative budget needs to "invest more in the supports that could help improve student behavior."
"We hope to see a final budget that makes a substantial investment in student supports and wrap-around services that will make a significant impact on student learning," she said. "$5 million is a start, but we need to carefully consider all of the potential supports that our students need."
Shortly before the unanimous vote, Jones and other board members applauded Hargens' move to add more money to support behavior interventions.
"The $5 million is a big improvement," said board member Lisa Willner. "(We've) been hearing steady drumbeat about behavioral issues. We have to address it head-on."
Willner said she hopes that the $5 million can be spent on "deeper learning and proactive approaches."
Chris Kolb, vice-president of CLOUT, said he hopes the money will be spent on restorative practices.
The district has turned to intervention strategies such as restorative practices and Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports to proactively manage student behavior. The premise behind restorative practices is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.
Cordelia Hardin, the district's chief financial officer, said the district will look at all of its options and to research before deciding where to spend it.
"We're not going to spend it foolishly," she said.
This year's budget includes approximately $1.1 billion being funded by the general fund. Overall, nearly $800 million of the general fund -- or approximately 70 percent -- of the district's budget goes directly to schools.
Board member Chris Brady pointed out concerns with the district's infrastructure, noting that the district has a number of aging buildings that are in need of critical repairs.
The 155-page budget does indicate that "sustained reductions in central office have seriously undermined our ability to adequately replace roofs, buses and much more."
And John Collopy, the district's director of financial planning and management, admitted that "this budget is not all inclusive, it does not cover all of our needs. If it did, we would not have list of unfunded items."
Brady also questioned whether the district should "start laying the groundwork for a tax increase."
"If we do need to raise taxes, do we need to start preparing, letting people know?" he asked.
Hardin said the district does need the 4 percent revenue increase, but officials hope that will happen through property assessment.
She said officials won't know if the district will need to increase taxes in order to balance its budget until later this summer.
The tentative budget is the second of three budgets approved by the school board this year. The working budget will be up for approval in September.
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Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.
Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.