JCPS board closer to approving $1.7 billion draft budget
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education will soon pass a $1.7 billion working budget that Superintendent Marty Pollio says will help the district pivot to new spending strategies next year.
The board offered its feedback on the budget during a work session Wednesday. The final version is set for a vote at the board’s Sept. 25 meeting, according to Chief Financial Officer Cordelia Hardin.
The draft spending plan, nearly $1.4 billion of which comes from the district's general fund, covers a number of changes from the district's tentative 2018-19 budget.
The recently approved five-year collective bargaining agreement with the Jefferson County Teachers Association included 1 percent raises for teachers and stipends for those who teach in or transfer to the district’s lowest performing schools. Those represent the lion’s share of nearly $6.6 million in new costs from labor agreements, according to figures presented by Hardin.
The spending plan also includes $10.6 million more for early childhood education after the school board voted to relinquish its $15 million federal Head Start grant for the 2018-19 school year. Days after that May 29 decision, the Department of Health and Human Services sent the district a report detailing several additional allegations of abuse and neglect involving children in the preschool program.
Jefferson County Public Schools has extended its early childhood program to 3- and 4-year-old kids eligible for Head Start, which serves children from low-income families. Pollio told the board that the expansion will be a one-year expense since those students will be served by a new Head Start operator once the grant is awarded.
The proposed working budget also includes $1.4 million to hire 40 additional bus drivers, though Hardin said the district didn’t expect to fill every position, and $1.2 million for summer extended learning programs.
Pollio called the draft budget a “bridge” to 2019-20 spending priorities. Next year’s budget will be more of a “starting from scratch” plan as the district evaluates every program and central office position heading into the next budget cycle that starts in November, he said.
“Our ’19-20 budget, when we talk about budget priorities, is going to be a completely different process and almost a reset in the way we do things,” Pollio said.
Some on the school board made late funding pitches during Wednesday’s meeting.
Board member Linda Duncan said the recent consolidation of the district’s two teenage parent program schools has been challenging for staff. Teachers in different subjects must share rooms due to lacking space, she said.
TAPP, which lost its state funding in the biennial budget passed this year, also needs summer programs for young mothers, she said, adding that the lack of a TARC line at the South Park location has affected attendance.
Board member Chris Brady asked whether there was any way to move the district’s construction timetable to build four new schools by 2024 up a year.
“Our youngest high school is now 50 years old,” he said. “We need to be building two new schools a year just to be able to come close to a 50-year life span, and I just feel we really need to get on the ball on it and move with all due to haste to really start this building process.”
Pollio said the timing of construction depends on factors like bidding out contracts and land acquisition once the board approves a final facilities plan.
“Essentially once we approve it, it will be as quickly as they can be built,” he said. “… I think we can have a much more specific timeline once we approve it here and begin that process.”
Construction is among areas set to benefit from the board's Aug. 28 decision to raise the property tax rate from 70.4 cents per $100 of assessed value to 72.5 cents per $100. It's the first rate increase by JCPS in five years and is expected to generate $20 million more in revenue.
Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.
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