By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
By a 4-1 margin, the Knox County Board of Education voted Friday to appoint a budget committee to discuss ways to reduce the budget in the school district.
The action came during a special meeting of the board that earlier discussed what Interim Superintendent Ralph Hoskins called a “Uniform Plan of Reduction.” The plan included abolishing positions in the school system, and revising the district’s certified salary schedule.
That plan would abolish four positions — two assistant superintendents, with a combined salary of $170,636.17, and two K-12 school assistant principals, with a combined salary of $131,277.73. The total reductions of eliminating the four positions come to $301,913.90.
It would also revise the salary schedule to cut all certified indexes. The Central Office would be cut $61,546.53, while school principals and assistant principals would be cut $105,346.84. The total reductions from salary cuts to all certified indexes come to $166,893.37.
The total from the two areas affected comes to $468,807.27.
The budget committee appointments will be made at the district’s next regular session, set for Tuesday, May 28. Hoskins said the budget committee would be made up of principals, teachers, Central Office personnel and one school board member.
Board members wanted to appoint committee members at Friday’s meeting, but were told by Board Attorney Ashlee D. Smith they couldn’t, because the action was not on the agenda.
Hoskins began the session explaining what a lot of public school districts statewide are also facing — less money.
“Local funding is 10 percent of our fund one budget. Local revenues are a big part of our budget. But with jobs leaving and the economy the way it’s been, tax revenues are down. State funding is down. SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) funding is directly funded by how many students are enrolled. It’s still dicey. Federal cuts hurt and they affect our Title programs and special education programs due to sequestration. When federal money is down, federal grants are down. We have the KISBIT (Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust, which dissolved in January, costing public school boards in the state to pay $50-60 million in liabilities) issue, and it’s in the $759,000-$800,000 range. We can bond that, but we have to pay it every year if we do that,” said Hoskins.
Friday was his 10th day as interim superintendent, after former Superintendent Walter T. Hulett officially retired May 1. He told board members and a crowd of around 30-35 in the district’s Annex Building, “I’m caught up in the budget woes, like everybody.”
Both Hoskins and Hulett notified several staff members that their contracts will not be renewed for the upcoming school year, or they would have a change in placement or duties. Non-tenured certified teaching staff were the largest group to receive the notifications. Those getting a non-renewal letter would be listed among the personnel actions on the may May 28 board meeting agenda.
Later, Hoskins mentioned about additional physical costs the district would be facing, such as having a central purchasing system, the need to buy equipment to keep the buses running, and buying new buses as well.
“We have to replace seven buses a year. To be safe, we have to have 10 buses, which would run between $800,000 to $1 million,” he noted.
After discussing the district’s situation with less money coming in, Hoskins told the session, “What I’m concerned about are the children. … We’re going to have to make more cuts, I believe,” and presented the uniform reduction plan.
When the plan was announced, he replied, “If we want to remain solvent, and we want to meet the needs of the students, we have to do this. It has nothing to do with somebody’s work performance. We have to cut services. I’m worried about our district, but I’m worried about our children.”
All board members were present. Board Vice Chairman Sam Watts, and Board Members Dexter Smith, Charles Merida and Merrill Smith were in the building, while a special two-way TV hookup from Louisville brought Board Chairman Carla Jordan to join in the session.
When asked her view of the plan, Jordan replied, “We have an interim superintendent and three new board members not familiar with this district. I don’t feel that we can’t justify this. … I’m very uncomfortable with abolishing any position at this point. Bring in the Special Ed Director, the Transportation Director, the Finance Director and other directors. Let them be a part of it. I propose we form a committee to look at each department and bring in other stakeholders and make cuts in their budgets, and not lay off anymore.”
Hoskins told the board they had until June 30 to make a decision, then brought up getting the budget committee proposal and letting them make the decisions on what to do. A motion was made by Dexter Smith to accept Hoskins’ plan. It carried by a 4-1 vote, with Dexter Smith, Merrill Smith, Merida and Watts voting “Yes,” while Jordan voted “No.”
Later in the meeting, the board went into Executive Session to discuss pending litigation. No action was taken.